Review by Gisele Grignet
Photography by Rodney Gitzel
To all the people that said that to me, hey, let me say there ain't a bigger Joe Jackson fan out there than me. Most people I know don't even own a Joe Jackson album past I'm the Man. I, however, own 13 out of his 14 disks (I'm only missing Heaven and Hell, his latest), including the bizarre soundtrack album he did for some Japanese science documentary (or whatever it was for). I would crawl over a mile of busted glass to have coffee and dialogue with the man, so keep your ignorant mouths shut!
The show was enough to make me cry. He's made it quite clear on this tour that he doesn't want to play his old material anymore, and so was only going to do a brief opening set of older stuff before playing all of the new album. There was no opening act and no 'band' -- just Joe, some keyboards and computers and two lovely musicians, violinist Valerie Vigoda and keyboardist Elise Morris. He opened the show alone on keyboards with a very sarcastic medley that incorporated the music of "Is She Really Going Out With Him" with the melody for "Different for Girls" over top, giving a 'smack in the head message' with the closing line "you're all the same."
He then moved on, record by record, gradually adding in the other players, and next up was Night and Day's "Real Men." He completely snubbed Beat Crazy and Jumpin' Jive (granted Jumpin' Jive was all covers, but no Beat Crazy! Joe, say it ain't so!) and went straight to a spirited rendition "Home Town," from the album Big World, one of my all-time favourites. He followed with "19 Forever," from Blaze of Glory, and "The Other Me," off of Laughter and Lust. The set wrapped up with "The Man Who Wrote Danny Boy," from his last album, Night Music -- the first album Joe Jackson ever put out that I didn't like.
The new record, Heaven & Hell, is eight songs based on the seven deadly sins. It's big, loud, and well-produced 'New Music.' After a brief instrumental break, the trio performed the album in its entirety, start to finish (and seemingly note-for-note), and the whole thing made me think of bad, pretentious theatre that dares to mix too many obvious messages and lectures.
To be honest I'm even at a loss to describe the music because I don't want to be cruel. I've never liked this type of music and the problem with it, for me, is that in the artist's quest to do something original, they end up going over the top and huge in your face with it. Like Drama 101, it shouldn't be on stage until you know how to make its subtext translate with grace and discretion.
Heaven & Hell, like Night Music, is a complete abandonment of the "old" Joe Jackson. I can appreciate his desire to move on and grow, but I can't understand his eagerness to dismiss all his older stuff as trite nonsense. Hey, I liked it! Does that makes me trite, too? Hmm...
As an encore, Jackson came back and played a lounge version of "Steppin' Out." Okay, so it was cute, but, Joe! It's a great song! Just play it! Anyway, the show wrapped up with "Slow Song" one of the only old songs he actually played straight.
Joe may be proud of himself, but I think my date nailed it best when he recalled a scene from Woody Allen's Stardust Memories (Allen directed the comedy as a self-portrait after his first attempt at drama was less than well-received ), in which aliens come down and tell Woody that they preferred "his earlier funny movies" to his dramatic attempts. It's exactly how this show made me feel about Joe: I preferred the pop sensation who made me want to write songs. Frankly, by the end, I was crushed and heart broken.
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