Peter Wolf

Bill Kelly
Peter Wolf

Peter Wolf

City: Boston
Venue: Paradise Rock Club
Date: 2002-11-22

Peter Wolf
Photo credit: Michael Indresano
The Woofuh-Goofuh Reportedly Retains All of His Own Teeth, Despite the Fact That They Turned Green in 1975 Musical artists often spend their entire careers attempting to replicate the urgency, the uniqueness, or, simply put, the "magic" they created on a debut record, unable to live up to standards created by their own work in the infancy of their careers. Examples of initial excellence might include Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted or Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville. More often artists hone their craft on their first two or three albums, and then, if they are fortunate enough, complete a landmark album at that point. For example, Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run was his third album (not that his first two efforts were lackluster), while the Replacements graced the world with Let It Be on their fourth try. But how often does an artist hit his or her stride after over 30 years of making music? While I'm fairly certain that it does not occur often, it is happening with Peter Wolf, as he finds himself peaking artistically at age 56. Born in the Bronx, New York, Wolf migrated north in his early 20s to study painting at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. However, after forming a blues/R&B band called the Hallucinations, he realized that perhaps music was his passion instead of the canvas. In 1967, Wolf's better-known outfit, the J. Geils Band, was born. They began as a hard-driving blues band and evolved into unlikely MTV pop stars when "Centerfold" became a mega-hit, but they were always best known for their electric live performances, which could turn an arena like the old Boston Garden or Detroit's Cobo Hall into an intimate "house party", thanks largely to Wolf's onstage energy and showmanship. In the years following the breakup of the J. Geils Band, Wolf's solo career has spanned a mish-mash of styles, from the uptown funk of his 1985 debut, Lights Out, to the more rock-oriented Come As You Are (where he once again wowed MTV audiences with the clever video for the title track), to the inconsequential Up to No Good. 1996 saw the release of Long Line, and at that point, it became apparent that Wolf's sound was evolving. Gone was the late-night party vibe of Wolf's earlier work, and in its place was an earnestness seldom shown before, hinting at the universal theme of a man consumed with the passing of time. The follow-up, the masterful Fool's Parade, is possibly the best work of Wolf's entire career, but ironically, saw no promotion from his then-label, Mercury Records. Fortunately, with Sleepless (Artemis Records), he picks up where Parade left off, returning with a more eclectic batch of songs, intimating that while Wolf may still be awake long after the sun has set for the day, he is up to more than "no good". More importantly, the new campaign has Wolf saddling up and touring solo for the first time in recent memory, including this hometown date in the intimate confines of the sold-out Paradise. For this show, Wolf and his watertight band, the "legendary" Sleepwalkers (leave it to the humble Wolf to bestow this status upon his band on their first tour together), focused their efforts on material from his last three solo albums. The ensemble opened with the new "Growin' Pain", an instant classic that seamlessly blends folk, soul, and rock, then segued into the similarly pleasing "Long Way Back Again". "Long Line" was given a more appropriate hard-hitting live treatment, while the bouncy guitars of "Nothing But the Wheel" worked just fine without Mick Jagger's forlorn croon lending its support. The band continued to dip their toes into a cornucopia of styles, from the lazy country of "Some Things You Don't Want to Know" to the smooth and soulful sounds of "Never Like This Before". Despite the strength of Wolf's latest solo efforts, reaching back into the vast catalog of J. Geils Band favorites proved to be too irresistible. The first selection, offered roughly midway through the two-hour show, was the star of the latest Heineken commercial, a heavy-on-the-reggae rendition of "Give It to Me", which saw Wolf exercise his rock star muscle by leaping into the receptive crowd. Other choice offerings included the R&B pop of "Musta Got Lost", the '80s AOR bubblegum of "Love Stinks", and the sob-in-your-beer anthem, "Cry One More Time". In the liner notes of Sleepless, Wolf makes reference to the notion that "changes and surprises are the results of good collaborations," and that notion certainly holds true in his latest manifestation -- be it in his songwriting collaborators, his in-studio guests (which this time around included Steve Earle and Keith Richards), or his onstage accomplices. And while Wolf may be playing smaller venues than in the heyday of the J. Geils Band, on this evening he proved that he is still a charismatic, larger-than-life showman no matter what size stage he roams.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.