“It’s gonna get hot tonight,” – were among the first lyrics that singer, actor Jack Wagner sang at Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club in Point Pleasant, New Jersey last night keying off of his number “Weatherman Says” – and he was right – his show was H-O-T!
Jack Wagner never disappoints, whether he is portraying a suave and sexy character on a prime time show [Melrose Place] or a serenading pop star on a soap [General Hospital] or holding his own on the golf course. He’s also never afraid to let his softer side show – the one that loves dogs, hugs fans, and takes time to Tweet to his followers. Oh, and that sexy side…it surfaced – in his songs and his moves. The smaller stage brought out the best in his vocals as well as his charm, as he met me, and my good friend and author, Christie Gucker for the first time in person as he smiled and said “Looking very sexy tonight, ladies.” [Insert pause to melt here.]
But that’s Jack for you! He is a genuine gentleman who knows how to make everyone smile.
Wagner and his band showcased his highly anticipated new album “On The Porch” at the Jersey Shore club venue, and the performance was en pointe with his band (Shawn on bass, Donnell on drums, Jeff on guitar, long-time band member Brie with back-up vocals and percussion (LOVE her Debbie Harry-esque hair!), Mike playing keyboard, and guest starring his son, Peter, for a shared song and chiming in on additional vocals).
Wagner took the time to introduce all of his band members, touching on the story of how he came to know Mike, while he was waiting on tables back in the day before he got his role as Frisco Jones on GH.
His son, Peter Wagner, shared the stage with him when they broke out into “Baby Be Mine Tonight”. It was nothing short of sensational. Talent, vocals, and good looks run in the family. When Wagner introduced his son with the rest of the band, he slyly smiled and said, “Peter Wagner, ladies and gentlemen! It was certainly fun making you, Peter” His son also smiled appreciating the good-natured parental humor in the matter.
“On The Porch” is his first full album release since “Dancing in the Moonlight” in 2005, where he has written all of the songs.
The set list included new bluesy tunes like a reworked version of “Right Key” (his most popular number from his new album), and a soulful “Song for Kerry” - a beautiful tribute he wrote for his daughter. He visited old favorites like ”Lady of my Heart” and, of course, his well-known, timeless “All I Need”; where upon the beginning of the ballad, the audience started singing it with him, ending with a standing ovation.
There are very few musicians that can knock your socks off with a live performance where they actually sound better than on their recorded tracks; Wagner is one of them. When you hear him perform live, especially when he breaks out into acoustic ballads, you can truly appreciate his musical range and vocal ability that needs no enhancement.
His newer tracks aren’t all melodic and slow; the up-tempo beat set by Donnell’s drums, and heavy influence of Jeff’s guitar and Shawn’s bass gives his new music an edge. The intimate club venue allowed the sound to surround the audience so you felt you were right on stage with the band. The environmental immersion into the music elevated this to a level that resonated excellently and unexpectedly beyond your usual stage-separating gig, where the band is beyond reach.
Brie and Peter accompanied Wagner’s tunes on key, while Brie gave her usual amazing performance as a professional singer and percussionist that only comes with decades of playing to the audience. Peter added a richness to the vocals of his father’s already pitch perfect performance. Mike’s wielding of the keyboard brought an authenticity to the music which seemed to have jumped right off of a digital recording and into the room. There was no subbing out of instruments; what you heard is exactly what you can expect when you play back a recorded version of tunes from the evening. Wagner’s songs delivered the heartland Americana feel to them as this Missouri native intended when he wrote them.
“I loved playing here,” remarked Wagner when I asked him how he liked performing in a more intimate setting. Truly, it was a fantastic opportunity to witness his enthusiasm while he greeted fans, took command of the stage, and I could ask him questions just as acclaimed interviewers like Dick Clark have done over the years. Punctuating his performance, Wagner celebrated the fact that he’s been sober for almost nine years; you have to applaud that in of itself.
Wagner’s stage presence is confident while he pours his soul into a heartfelt performance. He plays to the audience with his body language; perhaps his recent performance on Dancing with the Stars influenced and increased his magnetic pull on fans with his natural moves.
After singing some of the set, he joked that some of his past romantic interests may be saying, “So which one of us actresses are you singing about? Which blonde?” exposing the candid side of him that displays a wry sense of humor. He’s playful, though. No malicious harm intended. It’s all about getting a laugh and keeping things light. On that note, after many notes melodically encapsulated the club, he ended the night with a “Goodnight New Jersey!”
(Later he showed off his physique after peeling off layers to expose a yellow short sleeve shirt he wore on stage.) This was Wagner’s first return to perform in New Jersey in decades – one of the more memorable times he was here, he was on location filming episodes of General Hospital in Atlantic City. This was also his first time appearing at Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club, a popular venue featuring comics as well as a focal point of many soap stars. Now Wagner has claimed his place on the “wall of fame” at the club, where autographed photos of entertainers and celebrities passing through have marked their moments.
He’s not native to the East Coast but performs quite often at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and tours different venues around the country when he can’t be found on the golf course, or on TV. Wagner is one of the country’s top golfers on the Celebrity Players Tour. Hopefully, he will also make New Jersey a regular stop on his singing tour as well.
If you want to catch Wagner on the East Coast again, he’ll be back on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York. Tickets go on sale this Thursday, November 20th. For now, he’s busy filming a few episodes of When Calls the Heart for the Hallmark Channel, until he takes the stage again.
To purchase “On The Porch” and catch up with him visit his website http://www.jackwagnermusic.com/
Guitarist Jeffrey Pescetto has his own band “Little Fish”. Catch them playing around LA.
Percussionist and vocalist Brie Darling runs her own cake business! Follow Brie Darling Cakes on Facebook!
Many thanks to author Christie A. C. Gucker of Provoke Something for several of her photos that contributed to this review.