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Arts + CultureMusicSophisti-pop star Joe Jackson serves old standards, joyfully veers...

Sophisti-pop star Joe Jackson serves old standards, joyfully veers at the Curran

Who's not still bopping to 'Steppin' Out'? And who'd deny a near-septuagenarian new tricks?

For quite some time now, Joe Jackson’s Night and Day, his fifth studio album from 1982 that reached the top five in both the States and the UK, has been this esoteric signifier from a certain era that always found its way into various DJs’ record bags. And how. Punk DJs, rock heads, boogie fiends, New Romantic adorers… the LP traveled a thousand roads, a nomad that pleased a wide swath of tastes.

The New-Wave-meets-sophistipop stylings on its ’80s FM radio staple “Steppin’ Out,” which I first experienced on New York City’s number one Black radio station at the time, WBLS, earned the album two Grammy nominations. Like so many other synth-driven sounds from that era, it had a little bit of everything, guaranteed to catch the ear.

So needless to say, when Joe Jackson opened his one-night-only performance at The Curran Theater on June 28 with “Real Men” from the Night and Day album, I was kinda struck. First of all, I never thought that I’d see him live in concert. But here he was, solo at the keyboard, time-traveling, touching down on certain tunes with a quick veracity.

Somehow I had forgotten that late last year he’d released Mr. Joe Jackson Presents Max Champion in What A Racket!, an album by Jackson’s fictitious character. As he said in a press release, “These were wonderful songs in their time, but they’re surprisingly modern, too. Sometimes it’s almost as if Max is speaking, from his London of the early 20th century, directly to us in the early 21st.”

At the concert, he was working towards something, at a clip. Muscling his way through the Joe Jackson abbreviated cannon to arrive at the Max Champion sentimentals delivered with Cockney accents, Jackson wearing a get-up that made him look like WC Field à la The Bank Dick.

Before he launched into “Steppin’ Out,” he teased the audience with “This one has a familiar bass line and it’s more of a workout,” before sailing through one of his career-defining hits, a mere 30 minutes into his set, without ever being so precious. It was as if Jackson was looking back with an elder statesman gaze, proudly saying farewell to that past season.

The older crowd did enthusiastically tap, clap, yell, whip out phones, and sing along to the song, bringing a sense of togetherness to the show early on.

It’s nice when you make noise,” he told the crowd after the applause, and then proceeded to cover “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks, part of the night’s time-traveling theme.

The Max Champion set was entertaining. Jackson even covered “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” with his ensemble of players. Sitting in box seats, thanks to the wonderful staff at The Curran Theater, I kept thinking to myself, if this guy, nearly in his 70s, can decide deep into a successful career to make a change and highlight something completely different out of the left field, then truly anything is possible.

As I walked out after the show I felt blessed, knowing that inspiration can strike at any age.

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John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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