Bruce Springsteen’s current tour has gotten plenty of press. Playing MetLife stadium until 2 a.m. — after a long lightning delay — added one more chapter to The Boss’ legacy.
But Bruce isn’t the only longtime rocker still rockin’ stages. The J. Geils Band recently completed a fantastic East Coast tour.
And there — wailin’ on sax, as part of the 3-piece Uptown Horns section — was Westporter Crispin Cioe.
Crispin’s credentials are impeccable. He’s played and recorded with nearly every big name: from Coldplay, Wyclef Jean, James Brown, Aretha and Joe Cocker to Debbie Harry, Solomon Burke, Lou Reed, the B-52s and Ru Paul — plus Tom Waits, B.B. King, Ray Charles and Joan Jett.
He spent more than a year on the road with the Rolling Stones, during their famed Steel Wheels tour.
Crispin’s J. Geils connection goes back decades. In 1983 — during the band’s “Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame” era — he toured and recorded with them.
In an industry famous for break-ups and lawsuits, the J. Geils Band has had more than its share. The latest tour, in fact, was almost derailed by fights over who owned the Geils name. The actual J. Geils was not around this time — but singer Peter Wolf carried the show.
He and his bandmates — along with 2 backups singers and the Uptown Horns — were in “great shape,” Crispin says.
Sets lasted well over 2 hours. They featured early, rootsy, blues-based music, segueing into later stuff. From “Give it to Me” — which Crispin calls “one of the first reggae/ska tunes done in rock and roll” — to “Love Stinks,” audiences responded avidly.
Venues included state fairs, and smaller, intimate places like the House of Blues in Boston and Westbury Music Fair. Audiences included plenty of baby boomers, but quite a few Gen Xers — even younger, Crispin says.
Older fans remember J. Geils from their youth. Newer fans see the group as a bit “underground.” Crispin calls J. Geils “one of the greatest rock bands of all time.”
Touring can be grueling. “You play a show, get on the bus, drive 6 hours, check into a hotel at 6 a.m., sleep, then get up at 3 p.m. for a sound check,” Crispin says.
J. Geils will tour again this winter, primarily in the Midwest.
Crispin, meanwhile, prepares for his next project. He’s the musical director of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. It will be presented to Ellen DeGeneres October 22, at the Kennedy Center.
Crispin is writing original music for the show. “It’s totally different — and keeps me on my toes,” he says.
The same toes that tap while playing sax with one of America’s most legendary rock ‘n’ roll bands.