Concert: J. Geils Band in Mashantucket, CT
There is nobody nicknamed "Pink" in Pink Floyd, and there is nobody by the name of Jethro in Jethro Tull. But when you go to see the J. Geils Band in concert, maybe you're expecting to see J. Geils.
This was not the case this summer as several founding and long-standing members of the J. Geils Band hit the road without the band's namesake guitarist along for the cross-country house party that hit the stage at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday (9/16).
As recently as a few days before the show, frontman Peter Wolf told a radio audience at WZLX in their hometown of Boston that the J. Geils Band is no different from Van Halen, The Allman Brothers or even The Rolling Stones -- all of which have lost long-time or founding members and gone on to enjoy continued success and concert goers' loyalty.
Maybe Wolf was referring to losing the less-than-energetic presence Geils displayed last summer when the band toured, which seemed to affect every aspect of the show. From his lackluster guitar work to a phone-it-in attitude that was evident from the opening number to the encore, Geils was no fun to watch, and apparently no fun to play with either.
According to Wolf on WZLX, "It's not just the musicality; someone has to commit their body, mind and heart. It takes a lot of energy and passion to make the show what it is and provide the music the way we do it. You can't do a James Brown show and relax.... You gotta be able to work."
The J. Geils Band of 2012 worked just fine, turning in a blistering Sunday evening "school night" show at Mohegan Sun. And there was no evidence of any bad feelings or the legal wranglings that appear to be coming to a head.
Back in early August, The Boston Globe reported that John (J) Geils Jr. filed a lawsuit accusing bandmates, Wolf, Seth Justman, Magic Dick, and Danny Klein, of trademark infringement and deceptive business practices.
The 44-page suit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston claims that Geils now owns the "J. Geils Band" trademark, and the band sought "to misappropriate and steal" the name from Geils by touring without him, the Globe reported.
He reportedly sought the exclusive ownership of the moniker without the involvement of the rest of the band members despite the fact that in 1982, Geils signed a legal agreement preventing anyone from using "J. Geils Band" for commercial purposes unless all of the band members consented.
"J. Geils did a very deceptive thing; it was not what we'd consider in any way a correct way to do to band brothers," Wolf said during the Sept. 5 radio chat.
But Geils absence seems to have reinvigorated the rest of the group, which is now turning in the caliber of performances that made them a "must-see" two decades earlier, when they parlayed a selection of horn and harp-driven party anthems into a white hot run of top selling video and recorded hits like "Freeze Frame" and "Centerfold."
On Sunday, both were performed with extreme energy and spot-on perfection among the two-dozen electrifying numbers that lit up the audience from the machine-gun opener "Sno-Cone," through to the enduring cover of "Land of 1000 Dances," that closed the show nearly two-and-a-half hours later.
In between, the crowd got nothing short of opening night quality, despite the fact that the tour was just a few stops from wrapping up. Besides the exceptionally articulated harp work from Magic Dick (Richard Salwitz), each member played to their strength, with Justman revving up his Hammond B3 organ or alternately pounding out the piano accompaniments.
Klein was beaming with his trademark Cheshire Cat grin throughout as he held down the bottom end, and Wolf continues to amaze with a persona unequalled except maybe by Bruce Springsteen -- with an ability to mesmerize a crowd while swinging and shuffling around the stage like a crooning raconteur.
The double-barreled guitar onslaught that was so absent from the band on the 2011 outing was more than compensated for with Wolf's friend and guitarist Duke Levine being joined by a more low-key but equally talented Kevin Barry. Drummer Tom Arey was no slouch either, keeping up with the rapid-fire material that seemed to run one into the next with no end in sight.
And just when you thought the J. Geils Band couldn't pack another note into its roof rocking showcase, the Uptown Horns appeared laying down a blanket of brass to boost the appeal of more than half the numbers on the setlist.
Other highpoints of the evening included "Night Time," "Sanctuary," which also highlighted backup singers Andricka Hall and Catherine Russell, "Give It To Me," "Whammer Jammer," and the obscure "Start All Over Again."
While the summer leg of the house party appropriately wraps on the first day of fall, Sept. 22 in Hampton Beach, NH, the band is set to rock Chicago's House of Blues on Dec. 4, and Detroit's Fillmore on Dec. 7.