Joe Jackson: rolling back the years in Cork

Joe Jackson rolled back the years with a brilliant gig at Cork Opera House, writes Des O'Driscoll.

While many people associate the New Wave movement of the late 1970s/early '80s with raw sounds and three-chord tricks, Joe Jackson provided evidence of what a broad church it really was.

The Staffordshire-born multi-instrumentalist did plug into the post-punk ether, but along with contemporaries like Elvis Costello and the Blockheads, was a much more musically-sophisticated beast than some of the acts he shared stages with.

Most of the people in an almost-full Cork Opera House would have been introduced to him with his 1979 records Look Sharp and I'm The Man, but they possibly lost sight of him somewhat in the mid-1980s in the period following 1982's Night and Day.

By then he had wandered towards the jazz and swing-era tunes he loved, and was aiming for an all-round more mature (and less commercial) sound.

That move still forms a conundrum faced by anybody who has been in the game as long as the 64-year-old. How to keep the music interesting for yourself, while still holding an audience who really just want to hear the old stuff.

In Cork, Jackson conjures up a winning formula over the course of a hugely enjoyable show, with his popular tracks sprinkled strategically among the lesser-known material.

He plays several tunes from his solid new album, Fool, but gets the crowd very much onside early in the set with the likes of 'Is She Really Going Out With Him' and 'It's Different For Girls', two songs that still stand strong after all these years.

Half-way through the set, after a muted audience response to the mention of a 1990s record, he quips “That album sold five-and-a-half copies in Ireland!”

It doesn't matter – the brilliant three-piece backing band are almost worth the €35 ticket-price alone, and we know that Jackson will soon hit us with another classic. We even get cover versions of The Beatles and Steely Dan.

A raucous rendition of 'I'm The Man' finishes the main set, and brings the audience to its feet. By then Jackson's voice has been creaking a bit, necessitating frequent sips from a cup of magic tea, but he still manages another treat for the encore.

Explaining how he played every instrument on 1982's 'Steppin Out', he distributes some of the original studio equipment to the band to play his most enduring tune.

Built on the basic beat of a Korg KR-55 drum machine, the keyboards and glockenspiel soon kick in for a song that sounds as majestic as ever.

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