by Brian McCollum
Much has changed about rock 'n roll in 17 years. Fans play compact discs. Musicians cut their hair. Pine Knob sells earplugs. But one thing is constant: The J. Geils Band can rock. And Detroit fans will hop right alongside for the ride.
Friday evening at a sold out Pine Knob - a hollowed spot for the Boston sextet that turned Detroit into a second hometown before waging its final tour in 1982 - the J. Geils Band laid down a hot, funky soiree for more than 15,000 fans. The night - a blessed Michigan summer evening - was electric before the concert started. The band immediately lassoed the energy and flipped it like a lighting bolt back to the crowd.
From the opening tune, "Just Can't Stop Me", with vocalist Peter Wolf founding across the length of the stage, the show was certainly evoking rich memories for Motor City rock fans raised on the group's sizzling stage parties. It seemed the band hadn't missed a beat. Robust and tight, the group kept things slippery enough to slide from the goodtime boogie of "Pack Fair & Square" into the sharp-rock edge of "Sanctuary", next loosening up for an extended jam on "Night Time".
Indeed, Geils proved throughout that rock guitarists can improve with age, his wiry solos lighting up faves such as "Homework", "One Last Kiss", and "Lookin' For A Love". But it was a thick grooved "Detroit Breakdown", an hour into the set, that kicked the affair into high gear. By the time the band rolled through "Musta Got Lost" and "Whammer Jammer", it had pushed the audience into a frenzy.
With a blast of confetti and streamers, the group dug into the close of its regular set "Houseparty", with its infectious refrain 'Nothin' but a party'. Nothing but a party, sure.
But in Detroit, on a Pine Knob summer night...so much more.