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Music Review

Joe Jackson still the man at the Wilbur Theatre

Joe Jackson at the Wilbur Theatre Thursday.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Near the end of his sublime show at the Wilbur Theatre on Thursday night, Joe Jackson thanked audience members for their loyalty. The Brit pop-rocker noted that he had been coming to Boston for more than 30 years. The fact that this show was sold out clearly moved him.

Indeed, Jackson received a hero’s welcome from the first note of his opening number, “It’s Different for Girls” — one of four solo voice-and-piano songs he played to start the show. Two hours and 20 tunes later, Jackson had more than earned that ovation, and the many that followed.

One by one, Jackson’s backing trio joined him over the course of his still-buoyant hit “Is She Really Going Out With Him,” and made their presence known with impeccable playing throughout.


Longtime bassist Graham Maby — his cheerful head bop a comforting fixture — provided sweet high harmony vocals and a rubbery low end. Absurdly dextrous drummer Doug Yowell showed off his chops on everything from the pulsating “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)” to the angular rhythms of “Chinatown.” Guitarist Teddy Kumpel added a whole new flavor to Jackson’s sound, helping to rearrange older tracks like “Real Men” (with atmospheric fills and stinging licks in place of the familiar “whoa-oh-oh” refrain) and enlivening new songs like the hard-hitting “Junkie Diva.”

Disparate covers came in the form of a jazzy take on “Big Yellow Taxi” and raucous runs through David Bowie’s “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” and Television’s “See No Evil.”

That last song, as well as six others, came from Jackson’s strong new album, “Fast Forward,” which was recorded in four different cities: New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, and New Orleans. The disc makes a strong case for his continued vitality with songs like the instantly catchy “Keep on Dreaming” and the ruminative title track.


Jackson was in strong voice, his ethereally thready falsetto and powerful middle register intact. In great spirits throughout, he shied away from his excellent ’90s and ’00s output. His fans no doubt were just as happy to hear ’70s and ’80s jams like the still-scathing “Sunday Papers,” a moody take of “Steppin’ Out,” and a slamming “One More Time.”

Jackson closed, as he almost always does, with the lament of “A Slow Song,” band members exiting the stage in the manner they had entered, until only the leader remained, playing his melancholy music-box melody alone.

Music Review

Joe Jackson

At Wilbur Theatre, Thursday

Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.