Reunited J. Geils Band Proves You Can 'Start All Over Again'

Boston Herald, 21 June 1999

by Brett Milano

(to the left - THE ONE AND ONLY:Peter Wolf takes center stage)

The J. Geils Band with the Box Tops, at the Paradise Theater, Boston, MA

Consider the J. Geils Band officially relaunched. Thinly disguised under the name "Juke Joint Jimmy And His Houseparty Rockers", the reunited Boston band was a last minute addtion to the Box Tops show at the Paradise Saturday night. While the band members spent the past month rehersing, doing interviews and making TV appearances, Saturday found them getting down to the real business: Sweating it out in front of a live audience - for the first time in 17 years.

In case anybody's forgotten, a J. Geils Band show doesn't end until everybody's ready to drop. That was as true on Saturday as it was in the old days. The band's manic energy seemed unchanged by time, and so did the old camaraderie. The bad blood that kept them apart since the '80s was nowhere in sight. Originally planned as a short warmup set, Saturday's show wound up stretching more than two hours, with a lengthy encore and a final blast of "Land Of 1000 Dances" to take it home.

The show was also a reminder that the J. Geils Band was always a blues-R&B band at the heart. The first half of the show was heavy on blues covers from the band's early days. Otis Rush's "Homework" was a highlight, and frontman Peter Wolf reminisced about seeing Muddy Waters at the Boston Tea Party. He also took a few jabs at the state of modern radio, noting that "There are still some good stations out there, but you can count them on three fingers".

Wolf is getting back to his wildman persona, putting his trademark shades back on. Visually, keyboardist Seth Justman has changed the most. He now sports a new wave-ish, blond dyed, flattop, but his trademark organ sound was intact. And guitarist Jay Geils, and harmonica player Magic Dick seemed energized by their recent stint with the band Bluestime. New drummer Sim Cain, from the punk metal Rollins Band, may be an unlikely choice, but he proved loose and funky enough to fit in.

Flanked by the Uptown Horns and two female singers, the band worked in most of its hits (including 'Give It To Me'), but peppered the set with a few surprise album tracks: The last song on the "Freeze Frame" album, with a shout along title we can't mention here (Piss On The Wall), was a roudy crowd pleaser. And the most reflective moment came when Wolf sang "Start All Over Again," a lesser known ballad that fit the night's mood.


J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf, front, and Jay Geils goof around during a concert Saturday night at the Paradise.

The band went under the name Juke Joint Jimmy And His Houseparty Rockers

As the band filed off, Wolf raised a glass to the crowd and urged all the frustrated musicians to hang in there. Then he noted "We'll see you at Great Woods, or whatever the hell they're calling it this year".

Despite that cheeky signoff, the night promised good things for this week's Tweeter Center shows.

The only downside was that the Box Tops had to play while the crowd was still filing in - only a few dozen got to hear them open with one of their greatest hits, "Cry Like A Baby".

But for lovers of blue-eyed Southern soul, the Memphis band's reappearance after three decades was an event in itself. The Box Tops landed a half dozen chart hits in the late '60s, frontman Alex Chilton later formed Big Star and became a power pop cult hero.

On Saturday, they played a '60s style set, mixing their own hits with period cover tunes (some, like the frantic "Flying Saucers Rock 'N Roll", were holdovers fro Chilton's solo career). Often reserved and moody onstage, Chilton was positively exuberant with this group; and the band had such a juiced-up, garage-soul sound, that drummer Danny Smythe couldn't stop grinning. This reunion calls for an encore.