Joe Jackson sounds as good as he ever has at Troy music hall

Joe Jackson came to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall unmasked on Thursday, with none of the disguise

Joe Jackson came to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall unmasked on Thursday, with none of the disguises that have marked his shows here since 1979, when he masqueraded at Union College in a bulky raincoat and hat as his own anonymous opening act.

Always the smartest and most resourceful musician of post-punk New Wave, Jackson — like the similarly deceptive Stranglers — could always play and sing. He wrote songs that sounded simple on the surface but displayed well-polished facets emerging as he played them. Nearly 30 years after grabbing big-time stardom, he and bassist Gram Maby and drummer Dave Houghton came to the Music Hall grateful that fans would still come out to see them and displaying new songs from their “Rain” album that sounded completely comfortable alongside well-loved tunes.

The vintage “Smiling Faces” and “Fools in Love” sounded anything but nostalgic, Jackson’s falsetto straining on “Faces” — it smoothed out later — and “Fools” fading into “For Your Love” before returning in a more melancholy mood than before. New “Rain” songs followed, odd reverb on Jackson’s voice marring “Too Tough” but the episodic “Citizen Sane” pounding cheerfully in a punkish 4/4 and culminating in mischievous, grinning piano runs. “Upton Train” echoed jazzmen Ramsey Lewis and Horace Silver as Jackson announced it would. “Real Man” and “Chinatown” from Jackson’s best-selling “Night and Day” album were actually stronger than its best-known song, “Steppin’ Out,” which started strong but didn’t lift off as it should and seemed to wander to a close. However, Jackson immediately recovered with the surprisingly cha-cha-fied “Reelin’ in the Years,” borrowed shrewdly from the early Steely Dan songbook and confidently claimed as their own.

At the end, they romped through “One More Time” like their younger selves with pulsating force, then the title track of the new “Rain” album — which Jackson accurately called a “mad-at-the-world but romantic” song — brought peace before encores of “Is She Really Going Out with Him” and the majestic “A Slow Song.”

Trim, gray and balding in a gray suit, Jackson was in good voice, delivering the roundest vowels around, and Maby and Houghton both sang useful harmonies. The intrepid, intuitive way they played together was the show’s real strength, and it was really exceptional.

Singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore’s short opener may not have quite matched other recent acoustic rock shows (Rodney Crowell and Richard Thompson), but she’s young yet and more than just promising. Anyone who can get the Music Hall singing along loudly on a song no one had heard before — the anthemic “We Will Ride — Are You Ready” — is doing something right, and she managed this and much more. With husband/producer Nigel Stonier adding guitar and harmonies, she got happy with “Come on With Me” addressed to her son and a very creditable cover of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” but melancholy moods dominated and went deep. The yearning of “Old Soul” and the lonely quest of “The Lower Road,” recorded as a duet with Joan Baez, cut down to raw emotion, her lovely voice drawing the knife.

Categories: Entertainment

Leave a Reply