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Live Review: Joe Jackson @ Lincoln Theatre — 6/10/24

Two Tales of Joe Jackson’s Ingenuity
Words by Mickey McCarter
Photos by Steve Satzberg

Joe Jackson clearly as of two minds during his recent DC visit to the Lincoln Theatre: He could present a stripped down show of fan-favorite tunes or he could go big with a vaudevillian spectacle!

Instead of choosing one or the other, Joe simply did both, much to the agreement of the bustling U Street venue, for the concert date in his Two Rounds of Racket Tour.

On June 10, the nearly full house hung on Joe Jackson’s every word as the veteran charmer took to the stage with a simple keyboard to begin his show with a solo set of songs. Things started out predictably enough as Joe started his show with “Dave” from his 2019 album, Fool. He followed that up with the rarely played “Awkward Age” from the Joe Jackson Band’s 2003 album, Volume 4.

It wasn’t readily apparent, but in this first set, Joe was moving backward in time. Each song he played was slightly older than the last. He moved into the ’90s for “Stranger Than Fiction” from his album Laughter and Lust and then into the ’80s for “Real Men” and “Steppin’ Out” from his landmark 1982 record, Night and Day. By this time, of course, Joe has fully hooked the audience with his cooly original take on jazz-inflected power pop.

Watch the official music video for “Steppin’ Out” by Joe Jackson on YouTube:

Before too long, Joe has arrived in the ’70s for tunes from his 1979 sophomore album, I’m the Man. But then remarkably, Joe voiced an interest in continuing to go back in time, although we had reached the early days of his recorded output. And so he jumped back to the ’60s for a very well-received cover of “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks, sharing a story about how he often would visit the London Waterloo railway station as a boy.

Joe reached back even further, inspired by his turn in a 2005 movie, The Greatest Game Ever Played, where he appeared as a piano player in 1913. And I say even from the audience you could start to see the gears turning in the mind of the ingenious musician as threads begin to weave together. Joe covered the comical “Hello, Hello, Who’s Your Lady Friend?,” credited to Harry Fragson, an upbeat song from that period. He abbreviated the saucy verses from quite a few down to perhaps two or three, although I suspect the crowd would have been game for a longer rendition of the rousing number.

Without a true intermission break, Joe opened the stage curtains to reveal an old-time Londontowne set and a group of musicians ready to back him for the second half of his Two Rounds of Racket Tour. You see, Joe’s most recent record was a concept album, titled What a Racket!, said to be recordings of the fictitious Max Champion, who recorded around 1911-13, according other the story. The character was lost, presumably killed in World War I, and his music was “forgotten” until Joe dusted off the sheet music and recorded his “tribute.”

Now mind you again, the 10 songs of the second half of the show were wholly the creation of Joe Jackson himself. Between the two sets, Joe proved not only that he is a total musical genius but that he’s clever and witty beyond compare. When the audience wasn’t dancing in place, they were chuckling at Joe’s inventiveness and humor throughout the show.

In the second half of the show, Joe was joined by a talented orchestral ensemble, who brought vitality and presence to their parts. Much of the music rested on the capable shoulders of Daniel Mintseris, the pianist who also served as musical director. For the second half of the show, Joe stood in center stage, relinquishing keyboard duties to Daniel. They were joined by Doug Yowell (drums), Richard Hammond (acoustic bass), Susan Aquila (violin), Lourdes (Lou) Rosales (viola), Ricky Roshell (flute, piccolo), Christa Van Alstine (clarinet, bass clarinet), Jackie Coleman (trumpet), and Sam Kulik (trombone and tuba).

Dressed for the era, the players brought style and craft to their presentation of a 1910s English “music hall”-styled show, and the melodies and zingers flew quickly. The band soon set the tone with “What a Racket!,” the title track of the Max Champion concept album before moving into the baudy double entrendres of “The Bishop and the Actress” and the more sentimental humor of “Dear Old Mum (A London-Irish Lament).”

Watch a “documentary” produced by earMusic in support of Joe Jackson’s What a Racket! on YouTube:

Joe and his ensemble closed the second half of their show appropriately on Max Champion’s “The Sporting Life,” an amusing ode to eschewing sport.

In another fascinating turn, the full band remained for a two-song encore that included Joe Jackson signature tune “Is She Really Going Out with Him” from Joe’s 1979 debut album, Look Sharp!, and “Worse Things Happen at Sea,” another wily Max Champion track. That last song was delayed by a technical fault that somehow took down the stage microphones, but the loyal audience gamely sat through the wait, eager to soak up anything Joe might have in store for them yet.

If you like brilliant tunes served with a large dose of crafty intelligence, Joe Jackson is your man.

Catch Joe Jackson on tour!

Here are some photos of Joe Jackson performing at the Lincoln Theatre on June 10, 2024. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Steve Satzberg.

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