BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Peter Wolf’s Thursday night concert in San Francisco was an engaging performance by an immensely talented artist who has dedicated his life to music. Whereas many aspiring male musicians have indicated that they got into music to meet girls, Wolf has often stated that he got into music to meet musicians.
Another sharp witted native of the Bronx, Wolf often projects a hyperkinetic presence onstage. But he also has the ability to hold a crowd so silent during his storytelling between songs that you could hear a pin drop. Describing himself as having been “Baptized by Rock and Roll at the age of 10,” he engaged the crowd with much humorous banter along with tales of his interactions with other musical greats and collaborators such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Merle Haggard, Shelby Lynne, Mick Jagger, and Bruce Springsteen among others.
Wolf is best known as the lead singer and frontman of the J. Geils Band during their 1970’s through early ’80s heyday when they were considered one of the best live acts in rock. Geils actually had an up and coming young band from Ireland by the name of U2 as the opening act on their sold out arena tour while producing MTV staples such as “Love Stinks,” “Centerfold” and “Freeze-Frame.”
But this was no simple exercise in nostalgia. Touring in support of his latest in a long line of critically acclaimed solo albums, “A Cure for Loneliness” is Wolf’s soulful new album and it’s solid throughout. Playing seven cuts from “Loneliness” still allowed him to dig deeper into his lesser known solo catalog, playing strong selections from five of his other releases while still fitting in a handful of Geils tunes including a reworked bluegrass version of “Love Stinks” along with The Valentino’s “Looking’ for a Love” and an encore finale of “Musta Got Lost.” The Midnight Travelers proved to be such a sound backing band that Wolf generously introduced each member on three separate occasions.
Those in attendance were in store for a memorable evening as the Great American Music Hall is a wonderful venue to witness a show, whether offering tables on the floor as it did last night or standing room only as is often the case. But considering the resume of an artist of Wolf’s stature, one that should include a plaque in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as he continues producing new material of the highest quality at the age of 70, it’s unfortunate that he’s represented by a cheap record company with incompetent publicists unable to promote him properly.
Make no mistake, over thirty years after the initial disbanding of the J.Geils Band, Wolf is still quite relevant as a solo artist. An extraordinary skilled and entertaining performer, he should be making the rounds of late night talk shows to promote one of the best albums of the year, and deservedly fill larger halls such as The Fillmore. Unfortunately due to his sorry media representation it seems likely that he will continue to fly under the radar, his ongoing genius unknown to most other than his die-hard fans. He deserves better.