Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Veteran singer-songwriter Garland Jeffreys titled his 2011 comeback album, The King of in Between, after a recording hiatus of more than a dozen years. He wears the title proudly, and it fits him perfectly – and not just in regard to his multi-ethnic, African American/Puerto Rican heritage, although he addressed that directly in concert last month with his own personal anthem, “It’s What I Am,” a slow-burning ballad that featured the lyric, “Too white to be black, too black to be white.”
No, The King of in Between also refers to the far-reaching range of musical genres that he embraced in front of the sold-out, standing room only, Friday night crowd at WAMC-FM’s The Linda. He shifted gears effortlessly from the blues boogie of “‘Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me” to the reggae sing-along of “I May Not Be Your Kind” to the Spanish Harlem stroll of the exquisite “Spanish Town” to the jazz-flecked soul-stirrer “Any Rain” to the straight-up rock ‘n’ roll call to arms “Wild in the Streets.”
Jeffreys never fit neatly into any musical pigeon-hole, but it seemed as though every musical style that he served up at The Linda, fit him like the tight black sparkling shirt that he wore. The raw, buzzing blues of “Truth Serum” (the title track of his latest album) was as convincing a sermon as “The Contortionist,” a captivating urban stroll through dark city streets that Jeffreys dedicated to the late Lou Reed, who was his friend since their student days together at Syracuse University.
At various times throughout his 90-minute performance Jeffreys seemed to channel Reed, as well as a bit of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley (he kicked off his four-song encore with “No Woman No Cry”) and Willy Deville (especially on “Spanish Town”). During “It’s What I Am,” he dropped to his knees for dramatic effect like veteran soul showmen James Brown or Jackie Wilson, and he frequently left the stage to stroll out among the crowd while he sang.
Of course, he didn’t do it all by himself. He was quite able abetted by his multi-talented band, featuring drummer-guitarist Tom Curiano (often playing both at the same time) and guitarist-keyboardist Gray Reinhard. It would have been nice if they’d traded in their acoustic guitars for electric ones on “Wild in the Streets,” which required a bit more bite than they seemed willing to apply, but otherwise, they acquitted themselves quite nicely, even adding vocal harmonies along the way.
And by the time they cranked up ? & the Mysterians’ well-seasoned garage-rock chestnut “96 Tears” for their final encore, they had the whole crowd up on their feet and dancing in the aisles, as Jeffreys belted out the chorus while standing on seats in the front row of the theater. Not too shabby for a 70-year-old rocker…
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Jeffreys dedicated to the ‘youngsters’ his reggae song ‘I May Not Be Your Kind.’ The crowd cheered to this, the overwhelming bulk of them in their 40s or 50s. The vibrant and still rebellious Jeffreys boasted his age of 70, calling them ‘not that old.’ ‘Truth serum, pouring the liquid down the man’s throat … lies lies and more lies I don’t hear the truth,’ he sang alone before the band joined him with a blues groove. ‘Do you tell the truth?’ he asked the crowd, quiet at this point. A few laughed, and he pointed. ‘Those are the ones who lie.’ He called out a few more people to tell the truth and continued the song as if it were a John Lee Hooker blues tune.”
GARLAND JEFFREYS SET LIST
Coney Island Winter
35 Millimeter Dreams
‘Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me
It’s What I Am
Is This the Real World
I May Not Be Your Kind
New York Skyline
Wild in the Streets
No Woman No Cry (Bob Marley)
Ship of Fools
96 Tears (? & the Mysterians)