Insomnia leaves souvenirs for J. Geils veteran Wolf

Nightlife Q&A:

Sometimes an album title truly means what it says, as in “Midnight Souvenirs,” the latest foray from J. Geils bandleader Peter Wolf. Slinky numbers such as “Tragedy” (sung with Shelby Lynne), “The Green Fields of Summer” (featuring Neko Case) and a somber duet with Merle Haggard, “It’s Too Late for Me,” were inspired by his chronic insomnia. Even his primal paintings — on the CD cover and booklet — take shape when the sun goes down.  

Last January, you swore the J. Geils Band was finished. But you just played a huge concert at Fenway Park with Aerosmith, right? Yeah, and it was a lot of fun. But I never said no more. I merely said that each gig could be the last gig, because we don’t really have any tour plans with myself so immersed in my solo career. So it’s not like we’re one of those bands that says this is our final tour.

Do you rehearse like crazy every time you regroup or just slide back into it? When I’m working with my touring band, the Midnight Travelers, it has to be really right and good, and we’ll use whatever time it takes to get to that point. So when Geils played Fenway, we used the Uptown Horns, we used singers, we really worked on it intensively to get it up to par. I don’t want our show to be one of those moldy-oldie kind of embarrassments.

Did it feel great to belt out “Centerfold” and “Love Stinks” again? Well, I have a band now that can play all of the record I just released, plus any J. Geils that I feel like playing. So I can turn around and go “Freeze Frame!” and they’ll give it to me.

Didn’t you originally plan to become a painter, professionally?
Yeah. I studied art, I got art scholarships, went to school in Boston, and my roommate was actually David Lynch. I’d dedicated my life to painting, and I stayed with it until one night I got a little drunk, met some guys, and we played in a band together. And it was sort of like a baptism. Once I had the experience of performing, it just took over and I dropped out of school.

Now you’re painting again? I never stopped. But in making this record, I just found myself absorbed in painting more. So the cover painting is also titled “Midnight Souvenirs.”

IF YOU GO

Peter Wolf

Where: Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $27.50
Contact: (415) 655-5600, www.yoshis.com

artsentertainmentJ. Geils BandNEPOther Arts

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