[Today: Shooting off sparks…]
Long before they hit MTV with ‘Centerfold’, J. Geils Band was a fierce blues/rock outfit that lit up stages across the country as one of the hottest live acts of the early 70s. As an opener, it wasn’t uncommon for J. Geils Band to blow the headliners off their own stage. Their shows were a wild combination of R&B, blues/rock and good old-fashioned rock-n-roll, featuring manic, crowd-pleasing solos, a spastic lead singer, and the kind of showmanship that many bands of the day were too stoned to pull off. They played to their crowds, and it won them fans wherever they went.
A glowing 1973 concert review in Rolling Stone claimed that “…every J. Geils concert is typified by two things: a full house and a massive exchange of energy between the band and audience.” Recorded in April, 1972 at the Cinderella Ballroom in Detroit, “Live” Full House captures much of that energy: frontman Peter Wolf often lapses into a blues version of speaking in tongues, harpist Magic Dick solos orgasmically on about every other song, keyboardist Seth Justman plays with the kind of fervor that had critics describing him as a demented nephew of Jerry Lee Lewis, and guitarist and band namesake J. Geils provides the horsepower.
In his memoir via music, Songbook, British author Nick Hornby described the thrill of hearing “Live” Full House on his first visit to the states, as a teenager in the ’70s. “To me back then, this, not Tamla Motown, was The Sound of Young America – loud, baffling, exotic, cool, wild. It comes from the same place as Kramer in Seinfeld, and ‘Surfin’ Bird’, and ‘Papa Oo-Mow-Mow’, and James Brown being wrapped in a cape and led off stage before bounding back to the microphone, and Muhammad Ali’s boasts, and the insane celebrations when a contestant won a lawnmower on The Price Is Right.”
That wild, crazy, uber-confident and totally unselfconscious attitude is what makes this such a liberating listen. By their very nature, live albums can’t recreate the visual appeal of a band doing their thing without a net, live on stage. But every so often a live album is good enough that you catch a piece of that massive transfer of energy between band and audience. Drop the needle on “Live” Full House, and grab a live wire…
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