Joe Jackson Band – Live: Afterlife (2004)

Back in the era of the skinny tie (for you young-uns out there, that would be the early 1980s), I met this guy who liked to call himself “Stevo.”

Why?

Because he was a huge fan of Devo (this didn’t seem even a little bit dorky to me back then). He was always introducing me to new music. I’d walk by his dorm room and he’d say “hey, check this out” … and shortly afterward a blast of something new & fresh would pin back my ears. The Specials, Gang of Four … I never really knew what to expect. It was a load of fun though as we would stand around soaking in tunes and feeling superior to the kids down the hall listening to Reo Speedwagon’s High Infidelity.

One day Stevo turned me on to Joe Jackson’s Beat Crazy. Except for “Is She Really Going Out With Him,” I didn’t know much about Jackson. After hearing this one tune though, the urge was strong to head to the record store and get a fix. Don’t know exactly what it was, but the combination made me vibrate: a rockabilly-meets-”Secret Agent Man” guitar line, nervous percussion, Jackson’s shouted refrains and Graham Maby’s snaky bassline (I always thought of Maby as Jackson’s secret weapon).

As you would expect, I became a big Joe Jackson fan, following him through the rest of his multifaceted career. While making my way through 2003′s Joe Jackson Band reunion effort, Volume 4, it struck me that there are so few artists capable of drawing together all characteristics of their musical life.

[SOMETHING ELSE REWIND: Daring in range, startling in craft, 1984's 'Body and Soul' put to bed forever the idea that Joe Jackson was just another punk.]

So what’s all this blather have to do with Joe’s live disc Afterlife?

Well, the live reunion shows as documented here show just how well music from the various Jackson eras can hang together. A solo piano “Steppin’ Out” segues into a raucous “One More Time” and then into the Volume 4 tunes “Take It Like A Man” and “Awkward Age.” “Look Sharp” is followed by “Down To London” from the forgotten gem Blaze of Glory. Then the classic “Beat Crazy.” From there we go back to Look Sharp!’s “Fools In Love” (with a cool mid-song morph into the Yardbirds classic “For Your Love”) and then back to the present with newer songs “Love At First Light” and “Fairy Dust.”

Jackson and his band end the show with blistering ‘oldies’: the still-timely “Sunday Papers,” “Don’t Wanna Be Like That” and the punkish “Got The Time.” The amazing thing is that none of this seems like a nostalgia trip. The old and new material come together to celebrate and revel in each other.

I don’t own my skinny tie anymore (it was made of brown leather, if you’ve gotta know) and every so often I wonder what became of Stevo.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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