by Steve Morse
by Steve Morse
If you've been on the fence wondering whether you should shell out money to see the J. Geils Band reunion, then get off the fence and get to the box office now. The early verdict is in - and it's a unanimous decision. The band is back in vintage, houseparty form.
Saturday's "sneak" gig at the Paradise was played under the name Juke Joint Jimmy. When word leaked that it was really the J. Geils Band, the tickets sold out in nine minutes. And though it was a tuneup for the official, tour opening shows at the Tweeter Center on Wednesday and Thursday, it was rock 'em, sock 'em, in your face Geils all the way.
From the appropriate opener "Just Can't Stop Me", through a cover of Wilson Pickett's "Land Of 1000 Dances" more than two hours later, the J. Geils Band rocked the paradise to its foundation. Could it really be 17 years since the last Geils show in Boston? It seemed like yesterday, as the sold out crowd sang along at a fever pitch, reviving memories of the many shows that Geils used to play at Boston Garden.
From "Love Stinks" to "Love-Itis", from "Southside Shuffle" to "Detroit Breakdown", from "Freeze Frame" to "Centerfold", the band whipped into their classics with an overpowering zeal. Singer Peter Wolf danced and jived as only he can, gutarist J. Geils added extra relish to his spot-on electric licks, keyboardist Seth Justman assaulted his Hammond B3 organ with a determined purpose, and Magic Dick was busy blowing the roof off with his harmonica squeals.
The gig supassed all expectations - and so did the enormous sound churned out by the 11 piece band, including the three man Uptown Horns, new drummer Sim Cain (last with the Henry Rollins Band), and two new backup singers, Catherine Russell and Anrika Hall, who were a dream pair that shuffled easily between the night's many R&B and rock styles.
Wolf also beckoned the singers forward on "First I Look At The Purse", and their winning theatrics suggested that he should do this more often.
The J. Geils Band's rapport with the crowd was uncanny, as Wolf high-fived nearly everyone in sight. The bonding experience was furthered when he recalled the '60s Boston Tea Party club and how Geils opened there for Dr. John, Led Zepplin, Jeff Beck, and Roland Kirk. Many Geils songs from that era were played Saturday, among them "Homework" (originally by Otis Rush), the sax stoked "Nighttime", and the hyperspeed "Pack Fair & Square".
More important, the Geils Band seemed at ease with itself. Any remnants of a feud between band members seemed a bygone concern. The smiles on many of their faces, especially bassist Danny Klein's, said it all. And in the nicest gesture of the night, Wolf and Justman, whose past frictions were rumored to be at the band's breakup, left the stage arm-in-arm. It was a moment to savor - one of many highlights during a comeback show that was an absolute joy.