BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
Count Howard Jones among those who slightly freaked out as Wednesday’s severe weather pummeled Atlanta.
The otherwise placid singer-songwriter-synth maestro said during his Thursday night show at Variety Playhouse that he was shopping at Lenox Mall when the storm hit. He hustled over to True Food where, he said, Usher dashed in to pick up a to-go order and “that was the last he was seen,” Jones said with a laugh (we’ll assume Usher made it home safely).
Throughout his 90-minute show at the spiffed-up venue (the $1.3 million overhaul this summer was thoroughly worthwhile), Jones proved a self-deprecating storyteller in between a roll out of songs ranging from 1984’s “Pearl in the Shell” and “What is Love?” to this year’s “Eagle Will Fly Again” from the “Eddie the Eagle” soundtrack.
Flanked by another keyboardist and a drummer (playing an electronic kit), Jones performed a set that wasn’t quite as hits-heavy as his summer appearance opening for Barenaked Ladies.
The techno throb of last year’s “The Human Touch” and the melancholy piano-synthesizer on “Hide and Seek” (the song Jones has determined is his favorite) from 1984’s “Human’s Lib” debut album were welcome additions. Deeper cuts “The Prisoner” – a minor hit in 1989 – and “Just Look at You Now” might have had some fans clamoring for one of his radio favorites and they were eventually sated.
The somewhat chatty crowd quieted long enough to sing the pensive chorus of “No One is to Blame,” a song that just received a 2016 BMI London Award for notching 3 million radio plays in the U.S. (Jones inserted that information in a humorous story about meeting Sting – or, as he called him, “Mr. Sting” – at the event).
Jones, who looks eternally youthful at 61 with his spiky tuft of platinum hair, torn jeans and sneakers, injected the bright melody of “Everlasting Love” with a pulsing backbeat and reminded the crowd of the message of “Life in One Day” (slow down…and you can change the world single-handedly, regardless of what his original lyric expresses).
Jones is a low-key guy and his stage demeanor primarily consists of him prowling the stage with his headset and a portable keyboard slung over his shoulder. But vibrant lighting and interesting video imagery projected on the screen behind the stage coupled with Jones’ numerous hits ensured an evening of freshly dressed nostalgia.