J. Geils Band leader Peter Wolf has always had great musical taste. So it was no surprise that the effervescent Toots Hibbert and his Maytals opened Monday's Nissan Pavilion concert with a dash through Toots's estimable catalogue of reggae/soul ("Monkey Man," "Pressure Drop," "Time Tough").
"Crazy" was the theme driving the Geils Band's reunion concert tour, and Wolf immediately proved that by appearing in the ovenlike weather wearing leather pants. Featuring its original members (except on drums), the band, driven by Jerome Geils's biting guitar, Seth Justman's keyboards and "Magic Dick" Salwitz's harmonica ("Mississippi saxophone," Wolf said), wisely stuck to the R&B/pop synthesis that made it an East Coast concert legend throughout the 1970s.
Drawing from material on the band's 1993 anthology album, "Houseparty," Wolf sounded snappy on "Southside Shuffle," "Detroit Breakdown" and "Hard Drivin' Man," and demonstrated that the tight and funky early days were the group's best. While not quite that rock-solid, the band (especially Justman and during classics "Musta Got Lost" and "Give It to Me") proved it could still cut it.
Unless the band was seeking an over-amplified, uneven sound, Nissan's outdoor venue was a mistake. Certainly it wasn't chosen to hold the teeming masses (the lawn section was empty), and a smoky club milieu seems essential to the band. But Wolf, apparently unaged, shouted with such authority that the faithful who showed up couldn't have been too disappointed. Along with the heat, the dedicated ones proved the band's adage "Love Stinks."