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Wolf rolls on with ease

Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass., May 12, 2016

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Peter Wolf starts off his first disc in six years, "A Cure for Loneliness," with "Rolling On." Great title for a song, and as he would prove in concert, he lived up to those words.

The song starts "You can lay down and die / You can lay up and count the tears you've cried / But baby, that's not me / There's a big, wide world I was born to see / And I'm rolling on."

Good thing because at age 70, Wolf shows he has more than a few musical muscles left in his repertoire. In fact, Wolf, best known for being the front man for the J. Geils Band, has a history steeped in soul, R&B and the blues.

That wasn't as apparent on this evening before a sold-out crowd as Wolf clearly pointed to his roots rock and country sides, while also easily embracing his past.

Wolf put his faith in his new music, deservedly so. There are lots of good sounds on the new disc, including his take on Moe Bandy's "It Was Always So Easy (To Find An Unhappy Woman)" and "Wastin' Time."

Wolf even went bluegrass, going from a chunk of Bill Monroe's "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again" straight into the J. Geils megahit "Love Stinks," but changing up the sonics served Wolf well. It would be easy to reprise a hit like "Love Stinks" as an audience sing-along, but that wasn't where Wolf wanted to take the song.

His encore delved into the past, while also indicating where he's at today. He offered a tribute to the late Merle Haggard with the country ballad "It's Too Late For Me," which they recorded in 2010 for Wolf's "Midnight Souvenirs," while closing with the J. Geils Band chestnut "Must of Got Lost."

The Midnight Travelers, Wolf's backing band, was his ace in the hole. No surprise given the numerous lead guitar lines by stellar slinger Duke Levine, who added slide on a few occasions. Kevin Barry also took leads on guitar, while played lap and pedal steel to give a rootsy and/or country sound. Drummer Tom Arey and bassist (often upright) Marty Ballou ably manned the rhythm section.

Wolf presented his music with style. Dressed in black and often wearing and black-and-white jacket, he still cuts a lithe, cool figure on stage. He shimmied and shaked and had his hands rolling in rhythm on many occasions. He dropped to the floor, on his knees a la James Brown on a few occasions and sat on the lip of the stage.

And he has not lost his rapid fire rap skills, which he perfected decades before it became known as rapping.

Yup, Wolf is rolling on with ease.