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In 1979, Joe Jackson released not just one, but two great albums — the amazing debut “Look Sharp!” and the equally fine follow up “I’m the Man.”
Forty years later, Jackson — who ranks among the most versatile recording artists in pop music history — is still going strong, having released his 19th studio album, “Fool,” in 2019.
That kind of longevity deserves to be celebrated and that is exactly what the 64-year-old English singer-songwriter-keyboardist is doing with his current Four Decades Tour, which stopped at the Masonic in San Francisco on March 2.
Jackson treated the packed house to a fun two-hour romp through his ample back catalog. Yet, it wasn’t just a run through the greatest hits — although we’d get plenty of those — but rather a decade-by-decade glance back at his career.
He’d perform music from each of the decades he’s been in the business — which, despite what the tour’s name tells you, is actually five. Sure, he’s been making records for 40 years, but they span over five decades, from 1979 to 2019.
Jackson and his phenomenal band — consisting of guitarist Teddy Kumpel, drummer Doug Yowell and bassist Graham Maby — opened the show in the present, performing a moody, intimate take on “Alchemy,” one of five songs from the new album played on this evening.
Then he took the first of many hard left turns, crossing several sonic lanes on his way back to the adrenaline rush of “One More Time,” followed by the fun, radio-friendly sing-along “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” Both of those tunes hailed from the “Look Sharp” debut, which ranks as one of the best New Wave offerings of all time.
Jackson sounds even better today than he did back in 1979 — and, really, how many people can you say that of? Yet, his voice has aged quite gracefully, with the sharp edges of youth replaced by a kind of smooth confidence. He never sounds like he’s straining, or going for too much, at the microphone, even when he ventures into challenging territory.
Moving from the ’70s to the ’80s, Jackson touched upon the biggest album of his career — the Cole Porter-influenced “Night and Day” from 1982 — and delivered the sophisticated, yet slightly chaotic pop tune “Another World.” He’d later follow with a couple of other “Night and Day” numbers — “Real Men” and the Grammy-nominated smash “Steppin’ Out.”
Yet, the best ’80s offering was the hip pop-jazz nugget “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)” from 1984’s “Body and Soul,” which still sounds so fresh in 2019.
The crowd was treated to a pair of nifty ’90s selections from “Laughter and Lust” — “Drowning” and “Stranger Than Fiction” — before hitting the new millennium in fine fashion with “Invisible Man” and “Wasted Time” from 2008’s “Rain.”
He’d end up playing material from all three of the albums he’s released in this decade — 2012’s “The Duke,” 2015’s “Fast Forward” and, of course, this year’s “Fool” — and all of it stood up very well next to the older fan favorites.
Jackson and company closed the main set with the title track to “I’m the Man” — one of the best punk rock songs ever recorded — and then returned for an encore featuring a shimmering version of “Steppin’ Out.”