Photo of Garland Jeffreys by Luc Crul; provided by Rubin Fogel Productions.
It’s nice to see age becoming a joke in rock n’ roll.
If one thing has irritated me over the years, it’s ageism in rock – the assumption that the genre is a young person’s game, which invariably brings the knee-jerk mockery of artists who perform into their retirement years. It’s a double standard that is never applied in the jazz, country or blues milieus.
For that reason, I generally make it a policy not to even raise the topic. The way I see it, you either rock or you don’t. But after watching 68-year-old Garland Jeffreys deliver an incendiary performance at Club Soda Sunday night, I felt it necessary to make an exception: this concert was marked by a level of energy unmatched by countless next-big-things in their 20s.
Accompanied by a stellar band – Peter Vitalone on keyboards, bassist Brian Stanley, guitarist Gabriel Gordon and drummer Tom Curriano – Jeffreys delivered loud, ragged rock, boosted by his trademark side trips into soul and reggae. And he did it with a sense of showmanship that has become all too uncommon. By his third excursion into the audience to sing from atop a seat at one of the tables, it seemed as if the room was as natural an environment for him as the stage. And the crowd responded accordingly.
“I don’t think they were enthusiastic enough,” Jeffreys joked after the club emptied out, as the dying echoes of the encore howls receded for good.
Jeffreys opened his two-hour show (not counting a half-hour break) with Coney Island Winter, from his brilliant latest disc, The King of In Between, which dominated the first half of the concert. I’m Alive, The Contortionist, Streetwise and a fire-breathing, audience-baiting ‘Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me – which found Jeffreys in the room dancing with a fan while singing – also made a case for his new material standing comfortably beside his acknowledged classics.
And there were plenty of those. 35 Millimetre Dreams was an early highlight, a strutting NYC rocker that sounded better than ever. “Cool down, Garland Jeffreys, you’re havin’ too much fun,” he sang, a motion seconded by the well-packed room. An extended reggae workout on I May Not Be Your Kind, the gospel rave-up Don’t Call Me Buckwheat, a mesmerizing, crowd-thrilling Spanish Town and the anticipated go-for-broke cover of the garage-band classic 96 Tears were high points from earlier years.
It was, in the end, a night to celebrate the healing power of rock n’ roll.
1. Coney Island Winter
2. I’m Alive
3. The Contortionist
5. 35 Millimetre Dreams
6. I May Not Be Your Kind
7. Don’t Call Me Buckwheat
8. Modern Lovers
9. ‘Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me
10. Ghost Writer
11. Gotta Get Away From This World
12. She Belongs To Me (Bob Dylan)
13. Pledging My Time (Bob Dylan)
14. It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry (Bob Dylan)
15. Spanish Town
16. Wild In the Streets
17. Hail Hail Rock n’ Roll
ENCORE NO. 1:
18. We the People
19. 96 Tears (with I’m Waiting For the Man)
ENCORE NO. 2: