Today, The J. Geils Band is remembered mostly for their slick 1980s hits, such as “Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame,” but back in the 1970s they were a gritty rock and blues band. Just before they achieved huge mainstream success, they appeared on the German television series Rockpalast as the opening act for Patti Smith and Johnny Winter. The date was April 21, 1979, and the tapes were running as the band ran through an energetic 14 track set. That set now returns as a two-disc CD and DVD combination titled House Party Live In Germany.
Vocalist Peter Wolf, keyboardist Seth Justman, harpist Magic Dick, guitarist J Geils, bassist Daniel Klein, and drummer Stephen Bladd had been playing together for over a decade when they toured Europe in the spring of 1979.
They had just released their Sanctuary album and perform six of its nine tracks, including the concerts first five songs. While front man Peter Wolf dominates the stage, it is the harp work of Magic Dick that provides the instrumental focus for the band. He provides the unifying element for such songs as “I Could Hurt You,” “Sanctuary,” “One Last Kiss,” and “Wild Man.”
If you are not familiar with the early J Geils Band, this live performance will introduce you to material they played as a bar band. The powerful “Nightmares” and “Pack Fair And Square,” the kinky “Give It To Me,” and the rowdy “Whammer Jammer” and “Ain’t Nothing But A House Party” all add up to a fun filled evening.
As with most of the recent Rockpalast releases, the video is surprisingly good for 1979 technology. There is nothing creative or cute; just the basics, which tends to fit the bands persona at the time.
A couple of years after this performance, the J Geils Band were superstars as their sound became a lot smoother. House Party Live In Germany is an important document of a great house band at the height of its power, just before they changed for better or worse.