The elastic fantastic Peter Wolf's powers as a frontman are evident on this DVD.
The elastic fantastic Peter Wolf's powers as a frontman are evident on this DVD.
Photo by Manfred Becker/Courtesy of Eagle Rock

J. Geils Band Throws a Raucous German Haus Party

The J. Geils Band House Party Live in Germany Eagle Rock Entertainment (CD/DVD), 68 mins. $19.98

They are likely best known -- and came into most general music fans' consciousness -- via their '80s MTV-era hits "Come Back," "Love Stinks," "Freeze Frame" and of course the No. 1 smash "Centerfold." But from their 1967 founding through the entire next decade, the J. Geils Band were a tough, tight and white R&B/blues band whose songbook included both originals and covers of long-lost deep cuts.

Filmed before a German audience in April 1979 for the Rockpalast TV show, this concert DVD showcases the Boston boys at the precipice between their two distinct eras of sounds. It is also possibly the most energetic captured concert I've ever seen.

Singer Peter Wolf and harmonica cat Magic Dick in particular are all over the stage running, jumping, sliding, bending and in general exhorting the crowd with voice and harp, hair flinging in all directions.

Meanwhile, the other band members are bedecked variously in leather suits, sparkly black jackets, bright blue kimonos, and pimp-like fedoras and wide shirt collars. It's an utter physical manifestation that brings a sparking energy to standout songs like "Jus' Can't Stop Me," "I Could Hurt You" and signature cuts "Looking for a Love," "Ain't Nothing But a House Party" (with two cowbell sections), and set closer "First I Look at the Purse."

The latter three are covers of songs by the Valentinos, the Showstoppers, and the Contours, respectively -- though, oddly, their own hit "Must of Got Lost" does not make an appearance. Six of the first seven numbers are from their then-latest record, Sanctuary.

And while Wolf and Dick are the visual mainstays of the concert, Danny Klein (bass), Seth Justman (keyboards), Stephen Jo Bladd (drums) and band namesake John Geils (guitar) make their presence known in music and movement as well.

Story continues on the next page.

J. Geils himself brings his axe to the Germans for a little R&B assault.
J. Geils himself brings his axe to the Germans for a little R&B assault.
Photo by Manfred Becker/Courtesy of Eagle Rock

Wolf's fast-talking stage patter ("this next song will make your bladder splatter all over the place!") befits the hipster radio jock that he formerly was, even if some of the patois is lost on the German crowd. They perhaps did understand a comment about "jerking off too many times," though...

Currently, the J. Geils Band still makes occasional appearances (including one at 2013's Boston Strong concert) with four of the six members in the lineup: Wolf, Dick, Justman and Klein. However, their namesake guitarist has filed suit against the remaining members' usage of the name; Bladd had not been involved with the group since their first breakup in 1985.

And while a complete reunion may not be in the cards, House Party Live in Germany is a wonderfully rediscovered piece that shows how vital they were as a live band. With not a centerfold in sight.

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