Friday, September 18, 2015

One More Time

Where the hell does the time go?

That's what I found myself thinking tonight, when, thanks to a Facebook alert from a friend, tonight I got to see Joe Jackson play the intimate space at Iridium, a taping for a PBS series called "Front & Center."

Jackson, a striking, lanky figure, opened with a few solo piano songs, then was joined by a band that included his original bassist, Graham Maby, who propelled him through his catchy, spiky first hit, "Is She Really Going Out With Him?"
Jackson & Maby Redux (photo credit: David Steven Cohen)
Sprinkled among the familiar tunes, Jackson highlighted  a half-dozen songs from an upcoming album called "FAST FORWARD," explaining that the title refers to a Time Machine concept, in which you can propel yourself far enough into the future that looking back on the present, you can make sense of it.  It seemed an apt concept the day after the GOP Debate circus, and the Arab-American teen arrested for bringing a clock he built to school, and -- well, pick a story.

But it also was a Fast Forward for me personally,

When Jackson released his first album, Look Sharp!
 I was finishing high school -- and my musical taste had just graduated from the Eagles and Queen and Yes to Springsteen, the Clash, Graham Parker and Elvis Costello.  Jackson was in the proto-punk vein, full of high energy snark, tunefulness and wordplay.

And -- by whatever means we found out about concerts and bought tickets back then (radio? a trip to a department store ticket outlet?) -- I got to see him play live a few weeks before I went off to college. (I  had to check the below ticket stub for not only the date but the venue. I have no recollection of trekking to the the long-gone Calderone Concert Hall in Hempstead, Long Island. And yes, that says $8.50.)

After a second similar (and excellent) record, the same year, I'm The Man, Jackson left punk behind. (I raved about Beat Crazy in my college newspaper, but it didn't propel it up the charts.) 

It feels like he was always unjustly viewed as a wanna-be or also ran -- even though his heritage album of all jazz music, Jumpin Jive, was recorded at the same time Costello recorded his country album Almost Blue - and actually was released first! (That was a confusing year to be a fan of British New Wave LPs). He also had a bigger hit than Costello ever had with "Steppin Out," which coincided with MTV, but he never again had such a huge audience. 

In the intervening years, I haven't been a devotee but also didn't drop him; I kept collecting songs I liked, and live  albums that included  cover versions that he made his own of acts like Steely Dan, Bowie, and the Yardbirds. 

And tonight, after playing "my only nostalgic song," the wistful "My Hometown," he said he was going to play the song that was the first one he ever played live -- when he was 16.  

Wait. I did some quick math -- that was 9 years before I saw him perform on Long Island -- which itself was THIRTY SIX FRIGGIN YEARS AGO. 

Fast Forward, indeed. 

The below video isn't from the Iridium show --  but it's the song he played, so it'll have to do until we fast forward to the show airs in January. Hasta la vista. 


David Steven Cohen said...

Great piece, David. Was fun seeing the show with you. You captured it.

Stuart Malina said...

I enjoyed reading this.
I remember driving up to see him at the Orpheum in 1989, for his "Blaze of Glory" tour. Other than being way too loud for a small venue, it was incredible. After playing the old chestnuts, he announced that he would perform the new album in its entirety. Clearly, the crowd was disappointed, but I was delighted, having spent several days digesting it.
Great show...
I still include "Big World" and "Blaze of Glory" in my top albums list.

Christopher Giles said...

Mr. Handelman ,

I am a grad student at auburn u in history. I need to contact you about a story you wrote in the NYT about the Christian Motorcyslists association. It is for my disseration. How do I get ahold of you??

Gayle Taylor Williams said...

Just watched this on PBS and wondered how I missed knowing about this concert, since I am a major Joe Jackson fan and gave seen most of his NYC shows for the past 25 years! Should you get wind of Any future small shows linge this, could you alert me? Thanks!