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Concert Reviews:
J. Geils Band Brings The Houseparty Back To Motown

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2010

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- No band throws a party -- make that a houseparty -- quite like the J. Geils Band.

We know that in Detroit, of course, where the Boston group has adopted home town status and has recorded all or part of its three live albums. But even by its own roof-shaking standards, Geils' "Detroit Shakedown" on Saturday night (Aug. 21) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre was one that will go down as special in the annals of its Motor City concert conquests.

As one of just two shows on its schedule this year, and its only headlining date, Geils came fully loaded, with the Chippewa Valley High School marching band, which trooped on first to play a curious version of Geils' hit "Centerfold," and Kid Rock's production manager Eric "Shakes" Gryzbowski, who brought on the headliner by listing the litany of venues Geils has played in the Detroit area. Meanwhile, a trio of backup singers, two of which were from Detroit, and the four-piece Uptown Horns, with Detroit native Crispin Cioe on saxophone, and estimable auxiliary guitarist Duke Levine fortified the two hours and 15 minutes of rock and R&B that's loved here as much as -- if not more than -- in Boston, and it was a throwdown of the first magnitude.

Motown was certainly on the mind of dervish dancing Peter Wolf and the rest of the Geils crew as they lit into the show with the Contours' "First I Look at the Purse" before visiting their self-titled 1970 debut album for "Hard Drivin' Man" and covers of Big Walter's "Pack Fair and Square" and Juke Joint Jimmy's "Cruisin' For Love." Blues and R&B were certainly prominent within the 22-song show, laced with plenty of solos by harmonica player Magic Dick Salwitz, guitarist Jerome "J." Geils and keyboardist Seth Justman, but there were plenty of favorites for those with only a cursory knowledge of Geils' material (if there can possibly be such a person in metro Detroit), including hits such as "Freeze Frame," "Centerfold," "Love Stinks," "Give It To Me" and "Just Can't Wait."

Then there were the epics, songs that have become as much a part of the Detroit musical lexicon as any Bob Seger song. "Detroit Breakdown" was, as Wolf put it, "the moment of truth," delivered with authoritative muscle. Wolf's somewhat truncated preamble did not diminish the actual performance of "Must of Got Lost," during which the singer strolled through the front portion of the pavilion, walking through one row of delirious fans to get from aisle to aisle. "(Ain't Nothin' But a) Houseparty" held its status as a top-shelf anthem, sounding even better on a Saturday night with a full house singing every word back to the stage, while "Land of 1000 Dances" was an explosion of encore energy.

The show also featured some choice cuts from the nether regions of the Geils catalog, too -- the band's own "Southside Shuffle," "Start All Over Again" and "Surrender" along with John Lee Hooker's "Serves You Right to Suffer" and Harvey Scales' "Love-itis." Those were extra points of connection for an already rich relationship between band and crowd, one Wolf saluted several times during the night and which the DTE crowd returned with the kind of exuberance and genuine affection truly reserved for its own.

Another of Detroit's own, the resurrected Rockets, opened the night with 45 minutes of its own brand of powerhouse rock, touching not only on its own home town favorites -- "Desire," "Takin' It Back," "Turn Up the Radio" and its version of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" -- but also touching on guitarist Jimmy McCarty and drummer Johnny "Bee" Badanjek's tenures in Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels ("C.C. Rider"/"Jenny Take a Ride") and the band Detroit's version of the Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll." And maybe best of all, the quintet introduced a slamming new tune, "Whiskey Head," that frontman Jim Edwards said was from a new album the group was in the midst of recording.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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