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Concert Reviews:
J. Geils Band shares its Detroit love-itis at DTE

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Saturday, August 20, 2011

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- A weekend after Kid Rock's two shows at Comerica Park, it was hard to imagine a Detroit celebration of similar magnitude.

Enter the J. Geils Band.

The Boston group has long, and proudly, considered Detroit its second home town; it even referred to the city that way in the introduction of its Friday night (Aug. 19) houseparty at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. Geils is familiar and comfortable enough in these environs for frontman Peter Wolf to name-check long gone concert venues, record stores and radio personalities, and even crack jokes at some of the latters' expense. On Friday he reeled off lists of the artists who are part of Detroit's musical heritage -- from Norman Strong & the Diablos right up to Eminem.

So when Wolf told the nearly 15,000 at DTE (which he, of course, referred to as Pine Knob) that "Detroit is the greatest American city there is...If Detroit goes down, the entire country goes down," it was not typical rock star hyperbole but a genuine testament of faith and friendship on behalf of some adopted favorite sons. A warm feeling, in other words.

And when it came to the music, "hot" is the more appropriate description. In the midst of its longest tour in 12 years, the quintet -- abetted by the four-piece Uptown Horns (with Michigan-born saxophonist Crispin Cioe), three backup singers and second guitarist Duke Levine -- was even tighter and more primed than its been in other recent performances, delivering a 24-song, two-hour and 15-minute show filled with mostly rockin' R&B songs that, Wolf periodically noted, were recorded in Detroit, and even at DTE/Pine Knob, for Geils' three live albums.

Following a well-received 50-minute set of expansive, jammy songs by Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson and his adventurous new band the Brotherhood, Geils came out hard with "Just Can't Stop Me," kicked off by J. Geils' taut guitar riff and accented, of course, by Wolf's hydrofolic dance moves -- spins, arm rolls, Pony slides and just about anything else a blessedly unchoreographed body can do in time to music. The group celebrated the 30th anniversary of its chart-topping "Freeze-Frame" album with hits such as the title track and "Centerfold," but the real peaks were extended versions of "Night Time," the reggae-flavored "Give It To Me" and "Cruisin' For a Love" highlighted by solos from Geils, harmonica ace Magic Dick Salwitz and keyboardist Seth Justman.

The favorites were all present -- "Hard Drivin' Man," "I Do," "Surrender," "Just Can't Wait," a muscular "Sanctuary," "One Last Kiss," "Detroit Breakdown," "Love Stinks" "(Ain't Nothin' But a) Houseparty" -- and Geils also dug in for less-celebrated but, in Detroit, well-loved songs such as "Southside Shuffle," Otis Rush's "Homework," Arthur Johnston's "Make Up Your Mind," the soulful "Start All Over Again" and Juke Joint Jimmy's "Pack Fair and Square." Wolf delivered his customary pre-song rap before "Must of Got Lost" (this time involving a Domino's pizza delivery truck) and ventured into the pavilion, decked out in a Red Wings jacket, during the song.

Salwitz got a chance to shine again on the first encore, Juke Joint Jimmy's "Whammer Jammer," and Geils ended the night with another Motown salute, playing its version of the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go." But there was no questioning where the love was on Friday night -- firmly between Geils and its most devoted fans (even though some Bostonians might beg to differ). A sign that Wolf grabbed early in the night declared that "Detroit Loves the J. Geils Band and Always Will" -- and the sentiment was certainly reciprocated from the stage.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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