J. Geils Band rocks the House
If you're going to have a housewarming party then it makes sense to invite a band that knows how to heat things up. The powers that be at the new House of Blues wisely prevailed upon one of Boston's greatest, the J. Geils Band, to officially christen the venue, and last night the rock and soul legends lacerated Lansdowne Street.
The group may be 10 years removed from its last proper reunion outing but for two hours and 10 minutes last night it felt like they'd scarcely taken a break. They slid effortlessly through their own considerable list of hits and a passel of blues and R&B covers that had the sold-out house of 2,400 howling.
Frontman Peter Wolf remains a bundle of energy and was in great gritty voice. Clad in his signature porkpie hat and a glittery black jacket, he rolled his hands and wiggled his legs through the swagger of "Sanctuary," the reggae froth of "Give it To Me," and the jive talking intro to "Must of Got Lost" like a man half his age. All that wriggling loosened his trousers as the night wore on; at one point he called out for a belt and several came flying onstage.
The band - aided by a backing vocalist, guitarist Duke Levine, and drummer Marty Richards - matched Wolf lick for lick, veering from chugging blues to raved-up soul. Seth Justman poured out thick chunks of smoky organ. Geils peeled off spicy guitar solos that tore the joint up. With his 'fro ditty-bopping along, harmonica maestro Magic Dick added tart, juke-joint flavor to the proceedings.
"We're doing this one on a wing and a prayer," announced Wolf before the familiar sing-sing organ riffs of "Freeze Frame" rang out. They made it through the evening with nary a misstep.
Deadline obligations meant an early departure but sources left behind at the show said big Geils hits such as "Centerfold" and "Love Stinks" along with covers such as Bobby Womack's "Looking for a Love" and the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go" sent the crowd even higher. Some groups may have gotten more fame and fortune but few throw a party like the J. Geils Band.
Well-liked local belter Andrea Gillis made the most of her moment in the spotlight churning out classic covers such as Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High" during her opening set.
Consider the House of Blues officially warmed.
Additional reporting by Globe staffer Mark Shanahan and Geoff Edgers