The master storyteller is still howlin’ in Lowell
Two bowls of linguini with a side of Parmesan. That’s how Peter Wolf, the madman behind the J. Geils Band, gears up for his solo shows. On Saturday, Aug. 20, you can count on Wolf getting his Italian fix as he fuels up for his A Cure For Loneliness tour at Lowell Summer Music Series.
“I eat a big bowl of pasta the night before, one during sound check, and I’m ready to go,” Wolf, now 70, says.
Hold the marinara sauce, though. It upsets his stomach.
Wolf returns to LSMS as one of Massachusetts’ legendary rockers, equipped with more original tunes and tall tales than ever. Between his comical stories, albums of solo material, and J. Geils’ hits, Wolf offers nothing less than a two-hour set chock full of blues, rock ‘n’ roll and bluegrass.
“This is like the eighth solo record. Between all the Geils’ songs and all the other songs I know, we just start putting songs together and feel out the audience,” Wolf says about creating his sets. “Each show you feel out the crowd because each crowd has an individual feeling.”
Sprinkle in some stories recalling his colorful childhood in the Bronx, N.Y., and his quirky encounters with the Muddy Waters band, and you’ve got a show worthy of bringing popcorn to. Fans earlier this summer received their share of “Great Googly-Moogly!” at Wolf’s Somerville performance in May — one of many New England stops on this tour with The Midnight Travelers.
“Certain songs do have stories, and some are just kinda-sorta spontaneous,” says Wolf, admitting there are “several stories” about his growing up in New York.
The former lead singer for the J. Geils Band has been making albums on his own since the 1980s. With his emotional presentation of quips and chart-topper hits (Love Stinks, Freeze Frame, Must of Got Lost), Wolf hopes to establish that valued connection between himself and the listener — that “cure for loneliness” he always strives for onstage.
The 12 tracks on A Cure For Loneliness, Wolf’s first new solo album in about six years, are a stylistic blend mixing studio creations with live recordings, including a bluegrass flavored romp through Geils’ “Love Stinks.” But variety comes naturally to Wolf who spent some time as a DJ in his early years, and, who had a dad that was both a singer and vaudeville performer.
Decades into his rowdy rock and roll career, Wolf attributes his success and quality of work to his team of musicians, namely Will Jennings, the mastermind behind the theme for Titanic.
“I enjoy working with great collaborators, and the band behind me — they really are a great team,” he says. “It’s kind of like putting together a good film. The better the people are who work on it, the better the final product.”
Looking back on his musical catalogue, Wolf says that his teenage self would feel “blessed” to have had such a good team of musicians working with him, calling his relationships with fellow musicians “friendships that endure.”
As for his 40-plus-year career, the singer said that even he couldn’t see it coming from behind his token rock star shades.
“I never quite thought about it because I started as a painter, and I just assumed that’s what I would be doing. And then when music took over, you get so consumed in it, and you work from one project to the other,” Wolf says. “You don’t realize how the time flies.”
As important as the Summer Music series is for Lowellians, the city’s bustling music scene is something that Wolf treasures as well.
“I remember going to Lowell. Van Morrison was playing up there,” he says. “Then I remember going to see Merle Haggard up in Lowell.”
In turn, Wolf plans to offer that same magical concert experience to fans under the stars at Boarding House Park.
“Lowell is a place that I’ve played throughout the years – last time we were at the festival, we really had a great time,” Wolf says. “We’re looking forward to hopefully good weather and a nice afternoon.”
Tickets $39 Advance / $45 Day of Show. Purchase tickets at lowellsummermusic.org.