If you still held any doubts concerning the idea that rock 'n' roll keeps you young, those doubts should not have survived Friday evening's performance by the mighty J. Geils Band at the Central Wharf.
Led by the one and only Peter Wolf, the group brought a seriously swanky blend of rhythm 'n' blues and straight-up garage rock 'n' roll to a massive crowd on a beautiful night. And though the band members are all eligible for Social Security by this point, man, you'd never have known it from the performance. As has long been the case, Wolf could teach a thing or two to any singer considering fronting a band. He is the greatest living Caucasian frontman this side of Mick Jagger.
Interestingly, the J. Geils Band performed Friday sans its namesake, original guitarist J. Geils, who is currently suing the band over the use of its name - which happens to be his.
None of that mattered Friday. With the help of guitarist Duke Levine, Wolf, keyboardist Seth Justman, bassist Danny Klein and harp player Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz - founding members all - tore through a smoking set on the Buffalo waterfront, for the first time since the band's early '80s appearance at the old Aud as part of the "Freeze Frame" tour.
This time around, the group was not emphasizing its more pop-oriented material - though it should be noted that the group only had one massive hit album in the first place, the everywhere-at-once "Freeze Frame" and its hit single, "Centerfold." Anyone familiar with the group only from that album was in for a surprise Friday, as the group delivered a two-hour set of tunes culled from its earliest albums, torrid hybrids of Chicago blues and primal rock all.
Opening with a one-two punch from its 1974 self-titled debut, the band made it plain that it had come to, as the title from its mid-1970s live album suggested, "Blow your face out." Wolf boogied about the stage like a man aflame, and Magic Dick strode to the front of the stage, clad in leather and donning shades, to blow harp solos owing more than a nod to the legendary Little Walter.
Wolf didn't so much wander about the stage as prowl from side to side, leading the band, engaging the crowd, dancing like a 20-year-old and making it plain that blues, soul and rock 'n' roll still pumped through his veins with the same ferocity helped make the J. Geils Band one of the most revered live acts of the '70s.
The set list was killer, incorporating the likes of "Homework," "Southside Shuffle," "Cry One More Time" - famously covered by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris back before the JGB was a commercial concern - and the ferocious boogie chestnut "Pack Fair and Square." In fact, the "hits" - "Centerfold" and "Love Stinks," for example - didn't arrive until near the end. It did, indeed, feel that the band was reclaiming its roots as an R&B tour-de-force live act.
The band members left it all on the stage in what was surely one of the most exhilarating performances of the summer.
Openers Handsome Jack, a smoking garage rock/acid blues band from Buffalo, and the Matt Facciolla Band, a group comprising Buffalo music scene expatriates specializing in a Springsteen/Petty/Willie Nile influenced brand of singer/songwriter fare, warmed the crowd up with aplomb.
It all added up to one of the finest shows on any Buffalo stage this summer.