Music review: Joe Jackson, Glasgow City Halls

How to distil a 40-year catalogue into two hours? Rather than go down the standard greatest hits route, the Joe Jackson Four Decade tour revisited one album from each decade of the singer-songwriter’s career, beginning with his most recent work. The widescreen lounge pop of Alchemyfrom new album Fool dovetailed into the lean, punky new wave of One More Time, effectively showcasing the two contrasting sides of Jackson’s music – the romantic and elegant next to the peppery and pugnacious – with which he has had his greatest commercial success.

Joe Jackson PIC: Luigi Rizzo/Pacific Press
Joe Jackson PIC: Luigi Rizzo/Pacific Press

Joe Jackson, Glasgow City Halls ****

Later he juxtaposed two more new songs: the taut onslaught of Fabulously Absolute, with a fuzz synthesiser break for mischievous kicks, was swiftly followed by the softer, fluid, more reflective Strange Land. With such poised pop eclecticism, Jackson is like a lesser-sung Elvis Costello.

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However, there was no chance of under-appreciation in this room. Whoops of delight greeted his debut hit Is She Really Going Out With Him?, which was quite the calling card back in 1978 and is still an astute reminder that Jackson has consistently majored in songcraft down the years – in this case summoning the low-slung punk swagger of his one-time adopted home city of New York and combining it with sharp lyrics and a pop hook so indelible that the crowd took hold of it and wouldn’t let go.

There was more of this fluent variety over the next two hours, as Jackson and his stellar tight-but-loose backing band zipped through the Latin piano flourishes of Another World, the bruising reggae rock of Sunday Papers, joyous jabber of I’m the Man, nosebleed new wave of Got the Time and timeless troubadouring of Wasted Time from his 2008 album Rain, plus bonus cover of The Beatles’ Rain in lieu of a title track.

An unscheduled interval thanks to a false fire alarm failed to break the group’s stride, although Jackson did choose to go off script to honour a fan request with a solo rendition of emotive piano ballad Home Town before the band unleashed more casual brilliance with a version of Steely Dan’s King of the World, propelled along by some exultant drumming.

The Dan influence was evident on the superior funk pop of You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want) and Jackson evoked the very essence of sophistication circa 1982 with a glorious rendition of the classy Steppin’ Out, performed using its original drum machine. - Fiona Shepherd