We had long ago committed to seeing Cher at the new basketball arena in Milwaukee. But then I saw Joe Jackson also was coming to town. Oooh, we really needed to see that one, too, even if the shows were six days apart, stretching both our concert and travel budgets.
The second show Janet and I ever saw together was Joe Jackson. We were both 22 and sooooo sophisticated then, traveling to Minneapolis to see him at the Guthrie Theater on the last Sunday night of October 1979. That ticket cost $7.50, or about $25.50 in today’s dollars.
We looked forward to our 40-year reunion with Joe Jackson at the always wonderful Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. It was everything we’d hoped for.
It took only three songs for the not-quite-sold-out crowd to get into the spirit of the evening — “Look over there! WHERE?” — the call and response in “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” That was one of the songs we heard 40 years ago.
It was a charming evening, with Joe Jackson enjoying the proceedings despite a bit of a head cold. “Time is a relentless, vicious bastard,” he said good-naturedly to all the old hipsters and cool chicks before tearing into another song.
Fun to see Graham Maby, the bass player then and now. Jackson’s drummer Doug Yowell was a revelation, pounding away like Buddy Rich. Equal parts thunderous and tremendous.
We were delighted that “Look Sharp!” his debut album from 1979, was one of five albums from which Joe Jackson is drawing songs for his Four Decades Tour. So we also got to hear “One More Time” one more time, along with “Sunday Papers” and “Got The Time.”
“Look Sharp!” is one of our favorite records. Janet and I had it in our individual collections long before we ever merged them. Our copies of “Look Sharp!” are among the early pressings — a package that consisted of two 10-inch EPs with a small “Look Sharp!” pin. Mine still has the pin. Janet’s pin is gone, and the picture of Joe Jackson on the flip side of her album has light blue crop marks from where she once used it to illustrate a newspaper review of the album.
Joe Jackson set list, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, on May 6, 2019
“Alchemy,” “One More Time,” “Is She Really Going Out With Him” “Another World,” “Fabulously Absolute,” “Strange Land,” “Stranger Than Fiction,” “Real Men,” “Rain,” “Invisible Man,” “It’s Different For Girls,” “Fool,” “Sunday Papers,” “King Of The World,” “You Can’t Get What You Want (‘Til You Know What You Want),” “Ode To Joy,” “I’m The Man.” Encore numbers: “Steppin’ Out,” “Got The Time,” “Alchemy (reprise).”
As for Cher, also an evening well spent.
It started with a scorching 45-minute set by Nile Rodgers and Chic despite being squeezed onto that tiny strip of stage in front of the Cher curtain. Some of their songs: “Le Freak,” “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah),” “Good Times,” “Let’s Dance,” “We Are Family” and “Get Lucky.” You get the idea.
I’ve never been to Vegas, but I imagine Cher’s show is what a Vegas show is like. Dancers! Lights! Stage sets! A loopy, rambling but endearing monologue! Nine costumes over the course of 16 songs!
Coolest part — for me — was “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe” done on a ’60s vintage go-go club set. On the latter, Cher sang to video and audio of Sonny. I’ve seen that work for Queen and the Monkees, and it worked nicely here, too. Also got a flashback from the video boards. I glanced over to see Cher and her dancers framed just as they were on her old TV variety shows.
But I also must report that Cher does not do encores. As “Believe” winds down, she walks to each corner of the stage and waves, and then to center stage and waves. Then she walks off and the lights come up.
Cher set list, Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, on May 12, 2019
“Woman’s World,” “Strong Enough,” “Gayatri Mantra,” “All Or Nothing,” “The Beat Goes On,” “I Got You Babe,” “Welcome To Burlesque,” “Waterloo,” “SOS,” “Fernando,” “After All,” “Walking In Memphis,” “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss),” “I Found Someone,” “If I Could Turn Back Time,” “Believe.”