Howard Jones brings lots of new and old songs to City Winery


Coming of age in the 70s, Howard Jones fell in love with progressive rock. But he noticed that something was missing in the careers of his favorites.

“I was imitating my heroes, Keith Emerson, yes, Genesis,” Jones told the Herald. “I was very influenced by these groups but I was a big fan, from a very young age, of the radio. I wanted to be on the radio.

“I noticed these bands weren’t on the radio,” he added with a laugh. “They weren’t going into people’s homes and I really, really wanted to do that, so I condensed all those long bits into shorter things that maybe could get on the radio one day.”

That day in the United States came in 1984 when “New Song” entered the Top 40. Jones followed the first single with a long series of hits: “No One Is to Blame”, “What Is Love?”, “Things Can Only Get Better,” and half a dozen others. Jones wrote tight pop tunes with weird synth micro-symphonies at the heart (think the intro to “No One Is to Blame” or at the outro of “New Song”).

Since then, Jones has released a dozen albums while constantly returning to his old catalog in interesting ways – Jones performs a trio with guitarist Robin Boult and Chapman Stick player Nick Beggs at Boston’s City Winery on February 14.

“Playing everything identically as it was recorded, I would quickly go crazy with this endless repetition,” Jones said. “I always try to give a fresh look at things that are familiar to people because it keeps me interested. If I’m excited and interested, it shows in the performance.

Jones was trained at a young age on classical piano, turned to synths in college, and has spent the past 40 years happily mapping the two poles – 2019 LP “Transform” features contemporary synth pop, “Live at Siyan” from 2020 has him alone at an acoustic piano reimagining months-old songs and decades-old songs.

“It’s just two sides of me and I’m very passionate about both things,” Jones said. “I love doing electronic stuff, programming stuff, learning all these new sound manipulation techniques. I really love it and I’m actually surprised I have such a passion about it.

“The other side is that I’m a pianist and a singer,” he continued. “I like to do more intimate things, more acoustic things. For me, it’s a pleasure to bounce between one and the other.

As Jones follows his muse, his ’80s catalog has been embraced by a new generation thanks to Netflix series and movies using his tunes (see “Stranger Things,” “Watchmen,” “Bumblebee”). But he did not work much to conquer the modern market. He wants to make modern music (and does) but does not indulge in excessive nostalgia.

“You have your window in time when you’re the flavor of the year or two, but there are very few artists who maintain that for decades,” he said. “You have to be realistic about it, but staying on top of what’s going on is really important.”

“You can relate to someone who didn’t grow up with you,” he added with a laugh.

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