Peter Wolf Knows How to Get It Done at The Bowery Ballroom

May 9th, 2016

Peter Wolf – The Bowery Ballroom – May 6, 2016

(Photo: Duke Levine)

(Photo: Duke Levine)

Peter Wolf is an old school kind of showman. If you live in the Boston area and frequent the handful of clubs in Cambridge and Somerville where the local-music scene thrives, it’s not uncommon to see Wolf—a world-renowned rock star who’s fronted one of the great live bands of the age—hanging out by the stage, and, if the spirit so compels him, jumping up to sing a few. Among his strengths are that he exudes an easy intimacy. He commands a stage as a singer and a performer and yet, whether it’s an arena-sized crowd, a shoebox of a place or The Bowery Ballroom, where Wolf was on Friday night, he still comes off like the dead-serious-committed frontman of the local guys who, when the house is rocking and the crowd’s into it, can do no wrong. He struts, he dances, he kneels, he sings with gusto and owns his moment, with relish.

Wolf’s shows these days, when he’s on the road, are a banquet of his favorite sounds, primarily, although not exclusively, blues, roots-y rock and roll and R&B. His 90-minute Bowery show drew generously from A Cure for Loneliness, Wolf’s eighth solo album, but mixed in chestnuts from throughout his career, including the inevitable dips into the J. Geils Band catalog, which included “Cry One More Time” and, inevitably, a raucous “Musta Got Lost” to close. That Wolf would bring a crack band was a given, and this night it included a gallery of Boston regulars, from guitarists Duke Levine and Kevin Barry to bassist Marty Ballou and drummer Tom Arey, each a local legend in the land of Red Sox. They were a malleable unit, led by Wolf through roots and country (“Wastin’ Time,” “Always So Easy”), no-hurry rock (“Nothing but the Wheel”), desperately hurrying rock (“Can’t Get Started”) and ruminative soul (“Fun for a While”).

One of the new album’s curiosities—a bluegrass reinvention of the Geils chestnut “Love Stinks”—was paired with Bill Monroe’s “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold,” for an unexpected left-field highlight. Sometimes you just don’t argue with the old school, and why should you? You look at Wolf, you watch him eat for dinner a set like that, and you nod, thinking, “Yeah, that’s how it’s done.” —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson