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Concert Reviews:
J Geils Band heats up a chillly night at DTE

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Saturday, September 12, 2015

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- It felt more like football weather than summer concert season on Friday night, Sept. 11, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

But J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf promised that, "We're gonna warm you up, don't worry." And he wasn't kidding.

The Boston group did exactly what it's done since becoming an adopted son of the Detroit area some 45 years ago, delivering a hot, sweaty and energetic synthesis of blues, R&B and rock for just over two hours. The nine-member troupe blended tight showband polish with rough 'n' ready roadhouse attitude, throwing its particular kind of houseparty communion for a packed house that despite -- or perhaps because of -- the somber anniversary of tragedy was looking for something to take the edge off.

Wolf acknowledged 911 after the mid-show ballad "Teresa" but told the crowd "we're not gonna dwell on that tonight." Instead the Geils crew took a 23-song journey through its career, leaning more towards the raw attack of its 1972 live album "Full House" than the slicker approach of 1982's "Showtime!," recorded during a six-show stand that year at Pine Knob. The show's first half was decidedly old school with the likes of "Hard Drivin' Man," "Southside Shuffle," Otis Rush's "Homework," "Pack Fair and Square" and a long romp through John Lee Hooker's "It Serves You Right to Suffer" highlighted by round-robin soloing by harmonica ace Magic Dick Salwitz, keyboardist Seth Justman and lead guitarist Duke Levine.

Wolf, meanwhile, was his usual dancing dervish who at 69 can still channel the kinetic excitement of influences such as James Brown and Jackie Wilson. And he made no bones about the band's reciprocated love for the Motor City, noting that "I could go on and on about Detroit. I WILL go on and on about Detroit!". He referenced the places Geils has played, from the Cinderella to Cobo Arena, and the musical artist that have come from the area, from Hooker and Nolan Strong & the Diablos to Kid Rock.

"This is what we consider -- all of us on this stage -- the greatest rock 'n' roll city there is...You got everything!" Wolf declared.

And Geils certainly gave everything, especially in a second half laden with favorites such as "Give It To Me," "Freeze Frame," "Detroit Breakdown," "Love Stinks," the Magic Dick showpiece "Whammer Jammer" and the Show Stoppers' "Ain't Nothin' But a House Party." Only the 1981 smash "Centerfold" was dished out in a perfunctory, disinterested fashion; everything else -- up to and including a cover of the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go" and "Musta Got Lost," preceded by Wolf's usual whiplash tale of love gone wrong -- was delivered with feral intensity, and enough heat to take the unseasonable chill out of the air.

Ian Hunter & the Rant Band, meanwhile, was a value-added opener on Friday. Unlike Geils, the former Mott The Hoople frontman has recent material, and he judiciously peppered high-caliber songs such as "Now Is the Time," "When I'm President" and "23A, Swan Hill" amidst older favorites, ultimately scoring with established fare such as "Once Bitten Twice Shy," "All the Way From Memphis" and a closing couple of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" and "All the Young Dudes."

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