Howard Jones at the Winchester

Matt Thomas
The Winchester in Lakewood once again provided the setting for an unlikely artist encounter. It would have been hard to know in the '80s, if you were in attendance for Howard Jones at Blossom Music Center, that you would one day be seeing Howard perform in Lakewood. But that's the kind of stuff that you'll find at the Winchester -- a healthy dose of singer-songwriters and stuff that is all over the map musically, and a choice selection of artists like the Fixx, Leon Russell, and Nils Lofgren. These are artists that you might expect to see in a larger Cleveland venue, and instead, you get the opportunity to see them up close and personal, in an intimate club. Much like Lloyd Cole, who made his first Cleveland appearance in 16 years last year at the Winchester, it had also been a long time since Howard Jones had been in Cleveland -- 10 years to be exact, since he performed an acoustic piano date at the Odeon. Jones has toured relatively regularly throughout the years, and the closest he had come to Cleveland was a Detroit show late last year. (I took a road trip for that Detroit show, because it seemed possible that Jones might never make it back to Cleveland.) Jones was doing two shows at the Winchester in one night, and I decided to check out both of them, hoping for a different set list at each, and that's exactly what I got. Certainly there were a number of tracks at both shows that he had to play, and fans in attendance certainly got their fix on hits like "Life in One Day," "Things Can Only Get Better," "Everlasting Love," and "No One Is to Blame." Between the two sets, Jones also mixed in some great album tracks, including "Dreamin' On" from the People album, and "Hide and Seek," which is one of the more uncharacteristically dark tracks in the Jones catalog. One of the highlights of the night was certainly "Someone You Need," an introspectively romantic number that opened the first set. "Someone You Need" is without a doubt one of the finest tracks that Jones has recorded in the past 10 years, with the recorded version being a duet featuring singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik. The shows found Jones more talkative than usual, and it was definitely a VH1 Storytellers-type affair, with Jones providing the story behind all of his greatest hits. Guitarist Robin Boult provided not only acoustic backing for the set, but also plays the role of straight man for some of Jones' more comedic anecdotes. Jones and Boult have been doing the acoustic sets in this format for a couple of years now, and they really are a great duo. Jones also debuted three new tracks from a forthcoming album between the two sets, including one track that hadn't been performed prior to that night. It was a truly remarkable set of performances, and as Jones shared with the audiences in attendance, it was a show that almost didn't happen, due to nightmares traveling over from the U.K. Cleveland was the opening night for a month's worth of tour dates in the U.S., and as longtime manager David Stopps had explained in an e-mail update following the shows, it almost didn't happen: "Howard played two of the best shows ever in my opinion. This was particularly remarkable as we had a nightmare journey from England on Thursday. The BA flight to JFK was 3.5 hours late which meant we missed our Cleveland connection. We then missed a second Cleveland flight due to a bizarre JFK 'sliding doors' incident. This meant we ended up staying in an airport hotel in JFK with planes flying past the window every 15 minutes. There was more high drama when the next morning we almost missed another Delta flight to Cleveland. Despite arriving two and a quarter hours early, there were 300 in line for check in. We eventually arrived in Cleveland to go straight into sound check. Howard then played two of the best shows I can ever remember." It's certainly safe to say, on a rainy Friday night in Cleveland, there were at least 500 people in Lakewood who went home having seen a great show by Jones and company, who beat the stacked odds to deliver two great performances. -- Matt Wardlaw
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