June 17, 2018
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J. Geils Band reunion tour to stop in Bangor

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Longtime J. Geils Band lead singer Peter Wolf has become known for his showmanship, charismatic stage presence and fast-talking quips.

It only takes a few minutes of conversation to discover why.

When asked what drives his trademark writhing and jumping dance moves, his frenetic stage antics and microphone stand ‘pole-vaulting,’ he paused for a minute before answering:

“From my head to my feet, I go beat, beat, beat,” said the native New Yorker who became known as a New England musician. “It’s the music. It’s very sensual to me. I get off on it.

“It’s like being with a woman you really love because if it’s good it’s really good.”

Wolf and the rest of his re-reunited J. Geils Band mates are back together for a mini tour which includes a stop at Bangor’s Waterfront Pavilion Thursday. The Chris Robinson Brotherhood will open the Bangor Waterfront Concerts show at 7:30 p.m.

“We used to come up to Bangor quite a lot, but we haven’t been up there in quite awhile,” said Wolf in a recent phone interview. “The old Paul Bunyan Statue … Is that still there? We used to go over there and hang out with certain fans after shows, even in the coldest conditions.”

The band is in the early stages of its eight-city tour of New England, New Jersey and Michigan.

“We never really plan any kind of reunion tour,” said Wolf, now in his fifth decade of performing at the age of 65. “We’re just getting out there and rocking together at places we call home — Maine being one of them — over the summer.”

The J. Geils Band features its original lineup of singer-guitarist J. (John) Geils, bassist Danny “Dr. Funk” Klein, harmonica player Richard “Magic Dick” Salwitz, drummer Stephen Bladd, Wolf (whose real last name is Blankenfeld) and organist Seth Justman.

After its initial breakup in 1985, the band has reunited several times. Wolf declined to revisit the details of the issues that initially broke the band up at the height of its popularity — a string of three straight top-5 singles including No. 1 megahit “Centerfold” — saying only it involved “major creative differences.

The ex-husband of actress Faye Dunaway said touring isn’t a problem these days because the band members aren’t butting heads over songs, sounds and lyrics.

“Being that we are focusing on stuff that’s already been created, there aren’t the creative differences that come about when you’re making something new,” said Wolf, who is still actively involved in a solo career and touring with his own band.

“It’s something I really enjoy doing,” he said. “I’ll be back up in Maine in October with my band. It’s more intimate than the J. Geils Band with tales and stories between songs.”

As much as he enjoys doing his own thing his own way with his own band — and Wolf has earned critical acclaim and success with seven solo albums — he’ll never divorce himself totally from J. Geils Band notoriety, nor does he wish to.

“No. Because they’re part of things you helped create and I always enjoy doing them, especially since they’re songs we grew up that have meaning for a lot of people,” he said. “We appreciated it then and appreciate it even more now.”

Wolf, whose father was musician, light opera singer and vaudeville performer, cut his musical teeth on everything from classical chamber, folk, bebop and doo-wop music, as well as country jamboree broadcasts on West Virginia station WWVA. He tried to learn to play piano and guitar, but his dyslexia made lessons difficult. He eventually became a drummer in his junior high school’s orchestra, but was switched to cymbals and the triangle because he tended to play too loudly.

He developed an affinity for soul music while regularly attending Apollo Theater performances.

A former roommate of filmmaker David Lynch, it was at a loft party that he found his musical calling when he jumped in for a singer who couldn’t remember the lyrics to a song and helped the band finish it. Wolf became a band member and eventually the lead singer of the group The Hallucinations, and they became popular in New England until they disbanded in 1967 and Wolf met J. Geils, Magic Dick and Klein together at an open mic night at a coffeehouse in Boston. Bladd joined and due to Geils already being bound to an exclusive management contract, the band had to be called the J. Geils Band.

“The Geils Band has a body of work I helped create, and it’s great to be able to have almost an old-school reunion every now and then,” said Wolf. “The idea that I can just keep doing it because there are still people wanting to hear it is great, but it’s surprising for me as well.”

Hit singles like “Love Stinks,” “Come Back,” “Freeze Frame,” and “Flamethrower” are still in rock — especially classic rock — radio station rotations.

“I feel very honored that even after all these years, people still have a connection to our music,” Wolf said. “They’re the soundtracks of our lives, basically.”

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