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Interview:
The J. Geils Band Ready For A Motor City Shakedown
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

The J. Geils Band is ready for another Detroit breakdown.

Or, if you prefer, a Motor City Shakedown.

The Boston band, which considers Detroit “our sister home, our adopted home” according to frontman Peter Wolf, hasn’t been a full-time concern since 1985. But its members have, over the years, put their differences behind them and, Wolf says, “get together only for special situations.” Those have included an assortment of charity fundraisers and, last week, a concert at Boston’s revered Fenway Park with Aerosmith. And any time Geils does get itself together, Wolf says, it thinks about getting to Detroit.

“It’s like two great loves getting back together for us,” says Wolf, 64, an indefatigable onstage dervish, who was born Peter Blankfield in the Bronx and came ‘through town earlier this year to play Saint Andrews Hall in support of his latest solo album, “Midnight Souvenirs.”

“We’re coming out to celebrate the interacting between ourselves and the audience and that special thing that has gone on and continues to go on with Detroit and the Geils band. There’s so many memories, moments, people, friends. It’s just part of our history.”

And the DTE Energy Music Theatre, where the Geils Band plays this weekend, has its own notorious mark, both good and bad, in the band’s story.

Over Labor Day weekend of 1982, the group — riding high on the chart-topping success of its “Freeze Frame” album — played a six-show run at the venue, then known as Pine Knob. It was a triumphant cap for the tour also yielded “Showtime!” one of three live albums Geils recorded all or part of in the Detroit area. (Plans for a deluxe reissue of 1972’s “Live — Full House” were recently scrapped.)

But it was a bittersweet time as well. Things were not good within the band; a little over a year later Wolf left, a schism from which the group, which went on to record one more album, never truly recovered.

“A lot of the problems were coming to a head around then,” Wolf recalls. “The brotherhood that we had was going through lots of turmoil. But when we hit the stage, we were always able to just get into the show.”

And, Wolf adds, he remembers some very good times off stage as well.

“We just booked up the whole floor of the entire (Northfield Hilton) and had bands, friends, people come in from Boston,” he says. “It was just a 24/7 party on the top floor of the hotel. All the doors were open and the music was going and we didn’t stop, I think, for seven days and seven nights. And then we rested.

“I think several (radio) DJs lost their gig ’cause they didn’t end up going back to work. They just stayed with us and partied.”

Geils did record one album without Wolf, “You’re Gettin’ Even While I’m Gettin’ Odd,” before calling it a day in 1985. Fourteen years later the group reunited, save for drummer Stephen Jo Bladd (now replaced by Wolf’s regular drummer Marty Richards), to play a brief tour that included three DTE shows. It’s come back a couple of times since, while Wolf, guitarist Jerome “J.” Geils and harmonica player Magic Dick Salwitz have released solo albums.

Wolf, in fact, is planning to release a second single from “Midnight Souvenirs,” “I Don’t Wanna Know,” and plans to resume his solo tour in September. More Geils dates are always a possibility for the future, he says — but they’re never guaranteed.

“This could very well be the last one,” Wolf notes. “It’s always like that. There’s nothing else planned. But this not like certain bands, ‘Hey, we’re doing a farewell!’ — like the Who went out on a farewell tour and they’ve been doing it since.

“I’m not bad-mouthing anybody. I’m just saying you never know what’ll happen. So we’re not saying anything; we’re just getting on with the show. We have too much respect for Detroit to do anything but that.”



The J. Geils Band and the Rockets perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $25-75 pavilion and $25 lawn with a $60 lawn four-pack. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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