LIVE: Garland Jeffreys @ The Linda, 12/9/17

Review by Mark Alexander Hudson

Maybe it was the weather… The first night of meaningful snow this season may have kept some people from their intent of going “wild in the streets” last Saturday evening.

Maybe it was the fact that, critically acclaimed as he is, Garland Jeffreys has never really broken through to the mainstream with any major chart-topping hits, despite that aforementioned song having been covered by numerous artists.

In any event, Jeffreys and his two-piece backing band (JJ Jordan on guitar and Nick Biello on bass and keyboards) took to the stage at WAMC-FM’s The Linda before a disappointingly sparse crowd. But if it affected Jeffreys’ mood, it didn’t show. The 74-year-old Brooklyn veteran was mostly in strong and steady voice throughout the night, the only exception being when he flubbed the lyrics to, of all numbers, “No Woman No Cry,” the Bob Marley reggae classic that he covered on his One Eyed Jack album back in 1978. That one needed a couple of false starts before it got going.

Jeffreys’ music is a curious hybrid, reflecting his mixed race background of black, white and Puerto Rican. The influences of Lou Reed and Bob Marley can be clearly heard in some of his repertoire, and not coincidentally Jeffreys knew both men closely back in the day. Traces of doo-wop, reggae and hard-nosed New York City street rock infuse his songs, which are often both autobiographical and political.

For the most part his band adequately covered the bases of such diverse material, but I couldn’t help wishing at times for a drummer to propel the beat and elevate the rhythmic excitement level inherent in the songs. A little more heat would have helped to melt the ice.

However, the small crowd of devotees was certainly appreciative of the chance to witness a unique voice in American music in such an intimate venue.

Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me
I May Not Be Your Kind
The Contortionist
Reggae on Broadway
35 Millimeter Dreams
No Woman No Cry
New York Skyline
Nothing Big in Sight
When You Call My Name
Wild in the Streets
96 Tears

FIVE FIRSTS: Garland Jeffreys
LIVE: Garland Jeffreys @ WAMC-FM’s The Linda, 1/24/14

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