Tuesday, August 24
Just got back from the show, and here's a quick report while I'm waiting for the last of the blueberry ice cream to soften. The venue was the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, known mostly for Shakespeare in the Park. We had good seats, as did everyone there, and it was a fine evening, though a bit breezy. I was wearing a sleeveless shirt (which, according to the date on the back of it, is old enough to drink legally) and bought a meh t-shirt just to have another layer to wear.
Ethel, the opening act, was a modern string quartet: very nice, golf clap, not rushing out to buy the album. Then came Joe Jackson, solo, just voice and piano. It was really weird to hear that voice coming out of a person, somehow. I mean, I grok the whole concept of live performance, but somehow his voice has such a strong quality to it that it doesn't fit that it's just some guy singing. He was mild-mannered and self-effacing and funny. During "Take it Like a Man" the wind blew his lyrics book closed, and he had to stop and start over after he got some music-holding-down clips from one of the guys from Ethel. He played a lot of newish stuff, but of course got the largest reaction when he played the oldish stuff. There was a nice bit of spontaneous audience participation during "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" —and not just the obvious "Look over there!" "WHERE?", either. I've revised my opinion of him. I no longer think he's a stuck-up asshole, I think he's just very shy. And also very gay; not that there's anything wrong with that.
Todd came out after a short break, looking good in a loud jacket and untucked shirt. Either he's lost the weight he had at the last show or he's gotten better at camouflaging it. He played music from many eras, first on acoustic guitar, then later on piano, then back to guitar, with a brief detour to the ukelele. He also spent a lot of time cursing the jets which flew noisily overhead every time he wanted to do something quiet.
The only hit he played was "Hello It's Me", which he fucked up completely on the piano. You'd think he'd have practiced that over the last thirty-some years. He did Beatles and Golden Earring covers, but mostly his own deep cuts, songs that we all know and love but for the most part don't get on the radio. He opened with "Lysistrata", for example. He did a couple from Faithful, a couple from Something/Anything?, one from The Individualist,and even one from The Album Which Must Not Only Never Be Played, It Must Be Stored In A Lockbox Inside A Safe Inside A Vault Inside A Cave Under A Mountain And Guarded By Four-Headed Wolves. I don't think he did anything at all from the new album, which was a big change from the last time we saw him with the Liars, where pretty much the whole set was the new album.
After the Todd set was over, Joe Jackson and Ethel came back out and they all performed two songs which they'd clearly been practicing for minutes and minutes: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Black Maria." Despite the roughness, it sounded great. The people in Ethel had clearly heard Black Maria before and successfully copied the guitar solos from the record with their violins. I think it was a great use of a modern string quartet! Joe Jackson was a little less comfortable with the unfamiliar material, but plonked along gamely on the piano and sang backing vocals just fine. It was loose and sloppy and I think everybody left with a smile.
I got yelled at for taking pictures with the camera on my phone. Because the number one threat to the livelihood of photographers and recording artists is photos like this—eat your heart out, Cartier-Bresson—