Joe JacksonSome people like to say that Joe Jackson was one of the brightest artists to come out of the New Wave movement, which plagued the 80's with a whitewash of much of the creative ideas that had come to fruition in Pop music during the 60's and the 70's. Others define him as one of the founding fathers of the New Wave movement. Sitting through his recent concert at the Riverside Theatre, in the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre, I could only think of how little these statements reflect what Jackson really became through his music. In contrast to the typical wishy-washy New Wave artist, Joe Jackson has always been a solid musician and composer who was as successful as Elton John and Billy Joel in placing the piano as the centrepiece in a Pop/Rock music setting. His style in particular has been a direct influence in the music of other well-known Pop/Rock pianists like Tori Amos and Ben Folds. And in this way, his music and legacy are a few orders of magnitude more substantial than most more forgettable New Wave artists.

The public was rightfully expecting a great night out. However, the opening act to Jackson's concert in Perth, local artist and winner of 2007's WAM award Josh Fontaine, was a disaster. It might have been honorable of the organizers to pick a local talent for the opening act, but, sadly, Fontaine and his young fellow musicians were not in their best moment to stand up to the task of introducing a star of Jackson's calibre. After a few slightly out of tune songs and some unnecessary insults directed to a member of the audience, who had asked Fontaine to stop, most of the public, which had arrived early to wait for Jackson's concert, had left the theatre to line up for what must have been a substantial increase in the local bar's revenue for the night.

With a slightly tense public back inside the theatre, Jackson entered the stage at around 9:15pm, following his two tour musicians Graham Maby (bass) and Dave Houghton (drums), and started gathering loose notes on the piano, in a crescendo that evolved slowly to the rhythmic chords of his first claim-to-fame hit “Steppin' out”. By that time, a more relaxed public had felt that the wait under unwarranted circumstances had been worth it. The first song was not his greatest interpretation of “Steppin' out”, but it fulfilled it's role as an ice-breaker, and helped the technicians to fine-tune the sound system, which had started on a left foot. From the second song, “Invisible Man”, from his latest album “Rain”, onwards, Jackson's charisma had already spread throughout the public, the broken ice had melted, and I could see all over the place shoulders moving and laps being hand-tapped to Jackson's contagious rhythmic piano.

Centering the song list of this concert in his latest album, Jackson was convincing in showing that the good quality and public appeal of his compositions have changed little since the release of his first single, 30 years ago. Evidence of his consistency over three decades was also provided by good interpretations of older and more recent hits and songs like “Real men” (1982), “Love at first light” (2003), “On your radio” (1979) and “Chinatown” (1982).

Midway through the concert, Jackson eased the pace and, alone on stage, sang the slow “Solo (So Low)”, from the album “Rain”, released earlier this year. The composition, with its elaborate harmonic and rhythmic progression and rich melody outline, aggregates much of Jackson's musical background and influences, mixing a strong classical feel to traces of Cole Porter's slower pieces. Both influences, more boldly stated in previously released albums such as “Night Music” (1994), “Symphony No. 1” (1999), “Night and Day” (1982) and "Night and Day II” (2000), were felt throughout the concert, alongside strong jazz colors, all very pleasantly strung in a Pop-Rock package.

With both musicians back on stage, Jackson announced he would be making an exception to playing only his own compositions to pay tribute to one of his musical heroes. It didn't take too long for his upbeat version of David Bowie's “Scary Monsters” to convert the somewhat timid hand-tapping and shoulder-shaking of the public seen in the first half of the concert onto more outspoken stand-up dancing. Then a few gals dared to a more frenetic dancing near the stage, as soon as the public recognized the first notes of “You can't get what you really want (Till you know what you want)”.

Under a standing ovation by most of the 900 people in that night's public, Jackson called the day and started to leave the stage, held his step once or twice to look back, undecided if he should leave or not. In a few second he was back at the piano, announcing a second exception to play “Never no lament (Don't get around much anymore)”, a tune by another of his musical heroes, Duke Ellington. Then the inevitable: more frenetic gals dancing to “Is she really going out with him”. Everything ended much like it started, with Jackson cooling off the public with “A slow song”, his musicians leaving the stage, one, then the other, and then himself, waving a final goodbye to a once-again standing public.

Joe Jackson's gig in Perth was one of those blessed moments in which the city is lifted from its condition of chronic (and hopefully circumstantial) isolation from the Arts and Culture world out there.


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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