Less than a month ago, New York City based singer-songwriter James Maddock played a weeknight early show at The Basement. This night, Coney Island born and bred Garland Jeffreys followed suit. To connect some dots: Maddock produced Jeffrey’s latest effort, Truth Serum, and Nashville’s Thirty Tigers, who happen to office upstairs from the venue, marketed the independent release.
Jeffreys first received notice in the mid-70s for his classic rock anthem “Wild in the Streets.” Legend has it that at the time it was the most played song on the Max’s Kansas City juke box. This may have had something to do with the fact that the Lower Manhattan night club was a favorite haunt of the late Lou Reed who Jeffreys befriended when they attended Syracuse University together.
Jeffreys’ career hit its apex in 1977 with the release of his brilliant Ghostwriter record. It brought him worldwide attention as both a talented recording artist and an exciting live performer. In 2012, Jeffreys returned strong from a dormant period with his The King of In Between. Now with the release of Truth Serum, he has put out two great records in as many years. At age 70, he refuses to hang up his rock and roll shoes and has been touring the world with a fine, powerful young rock band.
Tonight’s 80-minute set focused on the recent records but also included his best known numbers as well. While the small crowd of 40 included a few young Thirty Tigers folk who simply came downstairs after work, most in the room were familiar with the singer-songwriter’s back catalog and appreciated hearing his classics.
Jeffreys has always been a captivating and engaging performer. Free from an instrument, he constantly roams about the stage, even venturing out to stand atop the front tables and stroll through the crowd. His voice is deep and solid–as strong as it was when I first saw him some 35 years ago. He masterfully changes his pitch from song to song presenting every word he sings loud and clear.
There was one serious intense personal moment in this night’s set. In the middle of “Mystery Kids,” Jeffreys told and portrayed a dramatic and intimate tale about the abuse he received as a child from his father. While it was quite disturbing to hear and feel the pain he suffered, there was joy in the story ending with his personal triumph of forgiveness—a touching story brilliantly presented.
The main portion of the set closed with the beautifully exquisite love song to his city, “New York Skyline.” Jeffreys then returned alone to sing the brief a cappella song “Moonshine in the Cornfield” which leads off one of his older records. He then brought the band out for a mighty finish going through three of his best rockers before doing the much anticipated “Wild in the Streets.”
As I left I thought of what Jeffreys sang in “’Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me”:
“I’m not getting any younger / I’m not feeling very old”
Like seeing old bluesmen like Hooker and Muddy Waters perform in their seventies, it’s great to see rock artists like Jeffreys continuing to perform in their twilight years as well. I’m going to hold Garland to his parting words to the Nashville audience that he’d be “back to see us again.” I know I’ll be there.
- Coney Island Winter
- 35 Millimeter Dreams
- I’m Alive
- I May Not Be Your Kind
- Any Rain
- Is This the Real World
- The Contortionist
- It’s What I Am
- ‘Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me
- Mystery Kids
- Modern Lovers
- Truth Serum
- New York Skyline
- Moonshine in the Cornfield (a cappella)
- 96 Tears
- Hail Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll
- Wild in the Streets
Tom Curiano—Drums and Backing Vocals
Charlie Roth—Keyboards, Harmonica and Backing Vocals