From his earliest days as a punk rock and new wave pioneer on 1979’s debut “Look Sharp!” through full-fledged jazz explorations and classical sidesteps along the way, Joe Jackson has stayed consistently interesting up to this very day. Obviously his recording pace isn’t quite as frequent as it was during the ‘80s, but the singer/songwriter/piano player is making up for the seven year absence between original recordings (2012’s “The Duke” paid tribute to Ellington) with the 16 track double album “Fast Forward,” accompanied by a full tour.
Whether it was the songs that put him on the mainstream map or the ones he’s writing right now, Jackson kept right in line with the quality he’s always delivered and proved it’s possible to remain viable by simply following one’s artistic compass down whatever road it may travel.
As Jackson told a sold out Thalia Hall, the project was initially designed to be split into four EPs from sessions in New York, Amsterdam, Berlin and New Orleans, though after not being logistically plausible, everything merged into a single, surprisingly unified collection. In fact, the 61-year-old unveiled no less than six tunes from the project, and unlike so many artists of a similar age who usually provoke a trip to the bathroom, everyone stayed engaged across the understated treatment of “Fast Forward” and the driving, uncensored version of “If It Wasn’t For You” (which used the relatively benign, BBC-banned “bastard” as an effectively witty lyrical device).
Throughout nearly two hours split between a solo opening and trio-accompanied back half, the sport coat-clad troubadour stayed sharp in all aspects of his musical personality, especially when revving up the respectful crowd with the “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want),” the jazzy “Chinatown” and always sweet sing-a-long “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” Jackson also seemed to be enjoying himself playing remake roulette with The Beatles “Girl” and Television’s “See No Evil,” which also enhanced the ever-shifting set list.
Faithful were also rewarded with many of his older originals, including the straight ahead stomp of “Sunday Papers” and a sophisticated new arrangement of “Steppin’ Out” that transformed the mega hit’s disco-like production into a beautiful, romantic ballad. Whether it was the songs that put him on the mainstream map or the ones he’s writing right now, Jackson kept right in line with the quality he’s always delivered and proved it’s possible to remain viable by simply following one’s artistic compass down whatever road it may travel.