Joe JacksonIn photographs Joe Jackson appears a little pallid and unwell, but in concert, his music enlivens him and he looks beautiful. He shines. He is charismatic, clever, talented, consummately professional and, together with his band and the audience, he is having the time of his life. And why wouldn’t he?

If you are not planning on going to this concert because you don’t consider yourself to be a fan, reconsider. Joe Jackson and his band are outstanding musicians and deliver a wide-ranging, musically sophisticated, yet always accessible repertoire.
In this concert Jackson has moved away from a large band and paired down his ensemble to two players from the original Joe Jackson Band, Graham Maby on bass and Dave Houghton on percussion. These three produce a big sound. Jackson is two musicians in one - a virtuoso pianist and a lyrical pop/jazz singer. And both Maby and Houghton do backing vocals.

Jackson delivers material from throughout his three decade career including the emblematic pop song Is She Really Going Out With Him?, Real Men, One More Time, It’s Different for Girls, You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want). All of it was enthusiastically lapped up by the audience.

It is a testament to his enduring talent that one of the stand-out songs of the evening was Invisible Man, from his excellent newly released album, Rain. He played a number of pieces from this album including two poignant ballads, Wasted Time and Solo (So Low). With its big, upbeat 80’s sound, King Pleasure Tide had many of the audience out of their seats.

Throughout his work, the driving bass and percussion reveal Jackson’s New Wave roots, but the piano sound and his eclecticism which ranges from pop, to salsa, to honky-tonk to contemporary jazz, to classical, make his work timeless. There is a classic quality to his work that make his old songs sound contemporary and his new pieces sound as though we have known them all our lives. Joe Jackson’s lyrics are always interesting. They are a mix of wit, drama, disaffection, celebration, observation and irony.

In concert, Jackson likes to keep his music fresh. While he mostly remains true to his original versions, he enriches what you already know and adds improvisational embellishments on the piano here, a change of tempo there and a clever reworking of the phrasing somewhere else. You have to love a musician that does that.

He also keeps it fresh by changing the play list every night. In the opening night concert in Sydney his “cover du jour” was a brilliantly performed Scary Monsters by David Bowie. It was a great choice as there are resonances of Bowie in Jackson’s work: the strong narratives in his lyrics; the pastiche and experimentation; the playfulness; and the adventurousness in moving between styles.

Jackson is a wonderful singer. His falsetto is a little raspy at times but he turns it to his advantage, making it a very individualistic, haunting sound. The rest of his voice is very rich and strong with an impressive range.

See this concert if you can.


Tweed Heads
Monday 19th May
Twin Towns
Tickets: 1800 014 014

Tuesday 20th May
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
Tickets: Ticketek 132 849 |

Thursday 22nd May & Friday 23rd May
State Theatre
Tickets: Ticketmaster 136 100 |

Tuesday 27th May
Palais Theatre
Tickets: Ticketmaster 136 100 |

Friday 30th May
Riverside Theatre, Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre
Tickets: Ticketmaster 136 100 |

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