Jackson is a meticulous man and it showed with both the arrangement and choice of music.
Paramount Theatre, Denver
In a way, the opening of the Joe Jackson show at the Paramount Theatre reminded me a bit of the Neil Young show I saw earlier in the year. Jackson sat on stage behind his piano, alone, yet near a set ready for other musicians to arrive. Like Young, he performed some of his best-loved songs and the effect was to remind the audience of his songwriting talents. Acting, as he pointed out, as his own opening act, he completed the set with a very nice cover of the Beatles’ “Girl,” complete with audible sighs and the title track to his new album, Fast Forward.
Fast Forward was recorded in four cities—New York, New Orleans, Berlin, and Amsterdam—and each city has four songs. Although ti was originally intended as four EPs, his label decided to release it as an album. Jackson chuckled, saying, “Sixteen songs: It’s a fantastic value.” From the seven songs he sprinkled throughout the night, he is right.
Jackson is a meticulous man and it showed with both the arrangement and choice of music. The set was economical, though never skimped in touching on favorite songs from the songwriter’s early hit albums. At the end of his opening act, as the last notes of “Fast Forward” faded, his bass player walked on to the stage—none other than Graham Maby, who has been with Jackson since the earliest incarnation of the Joe Jackson Band in 1978. The immediately recognizable bass line of “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” sent the audience to their feet.
The night was one long conversation, with Jackson speaking between almost every song, explaining the time, place, or reason for the selection. For the new songs, he offered brief stories about which city the song came from and a glimpse into its intent. My favorite was “Neon Rain,” which, as Jackson said, was about “heading out into the night with evil intent.” In introducing “Junkie Diva,” he shouted, “This is not about Amy ‘Fucking’ Winehouse; this is about obsessive fans.”
The quartet, with Jackson and Maby excellently assisted by guitarist Teddy Kumpel and drummer Doug Yowell, also performed two more covers, “Scary Monsters” by David Bowie and the Television hit “See No Evil,” which Jackson said beckoned him to New York in the ’70s. As the night wound down, members of the band left the stage, leaving Jackson to perform the sweet and beloved “Slow Song” to close the show.
Perhaps it was the seated theater setting of the Paramount, but the audience had the feel of a jazz crowd, riotously applauding and shouting “Bravo!” This wasn’t lost on Jackson, who noted several times throughout the night about the threater and the audience, “This is a good space.” Jackson told the audience that he lived by the samurai code—expect nothing; be prepared for anything—and the night seemed to be a special pleasure for the band. As the applause and cheers rang out at show’s end, Jackson stood and walked from behind the protection of his piano for the first time in the night. He stood on the edge of the stage and seemed genuinely appreciative of the well-deserved adulation. And then he headed out into the night—with evil intent or otherwise. | Jim Dunn
Photos by Jim Dunn