It started and ended with just Joe, a piano, and a single spotlight. What transpired in between was an orgasm for the ears. He promised old songs, new songs, and a few covers. They were delivered as promised in a two hour, twenty song set to a packed house at the
Center Stage Theater in Midtown Atlanta. The show time was listed as 8:00 but the management must have passed along the information about Atlanta traffic and the nearly impossible parking around this venue, so Joe entered the stage at 8:30. Then he broke the ice by announcing that he was the opening act.
There’s not a bad seat in the house and we were six rows back from the right stage (thanks Alan T.) so we all felt the electricity with the first chords of “It’s Different For Girls”. Joe’s voice was still superb as he warmed us up with his “opening act”. “Home Town” was described as autobiographical and nostalgic, with Joe lamenting how hard it is to play numbers like these. It was. And many of us felt it too.Then Joe told the story of having to cover a Joni Mitchell song at a benefit concert. That was the comic relief we all needed. He said his voice is not conducive to Joni’s range so he had to come up with a twist. What better way to channel a Canadian guitarist than to play her song as a Mississippi Delta pianist. So he rolled out “Big Yellow Taxi” as a ragtime cover – and it was great. The crowd loved it.Next we fast forward to a full band to introduce Fast Forward, which is the latest release from Joe Jackson. It was conceived as four separate EPs, each from a different city – New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, and New Orleans. It then morphed into a cohesive single release with the feel of the four cities still evident. Nice job! We were treated to a sampling of Fast Forward with old crowd favorites thrown in.
Surprisingly “Steppin’ Out” was introduced by Joe as being conceived as a very romantic song, not the upbeat disco (his words) number that we all know. So the band slowed it down to about half speed with whispering background vocals. They pulled it off well and it did take on a more romantic feel. Think “Layla” or “Revolution” in their slower alternate versions.
It should be no surprise that Mr. Jackson has a deep respect for the genius of Duke Ellington. So the other cover of the evening was “It Don’t Mean A Thing” from Duke. Joe seemed genuinely moved that the hall was sold out and thanked us for supporting him even though he hadn’t played Atlanta in years and has been touring since nineteen seventy fucking nine (again, his words). I was lucky to have seen Joe’s last concert here at the Variety, but this show trumped that one for sure.
The band closed with their standard “A Slow Song” as the members left the stage one by one leaving Joe alone as it all began. Joe does not select his band mates casually. Each is a consummate musician, and they were an integral part of the show.
One of my personal favorites “Breaking Us In Two” was not on the set list. I guess Joe didn’t get my tweet in time.
Until the next concert, it’s time for my boot heels to be wanderin’.