Rolling Stone, #387 – By J.D. Considine.
In many ways, Showtime is like the great live rock & roll albums of yesteryear – it’s loose, energetic and sounds as if it were taped on a cassette recorder smuggled in under somebody’s sweater. Unfortunately, that means Stephen Bladd’s drums sound like wet cardboard boxes, and J. Geils’ guitar disappears under a roar of audience approval while punching out the intro to “Jus’ Can’t Stop Me.” It may be unreasonable to expect a concert recording to have the crisp clarity of a studio album, particularly one as sharp as Freeze-Frame, but surely modern technology can do better than this.
The murky sound wouldn’t be so frustrating if the J. Geils Band wasn’t in such prime form. Augmented by New York’s Uptown Horns and spurred on by an enthusiastic Detroit audience, the band is as sharp as a razor. Whether supercharging a stock shuffle like “Walls Come Tumblin’ Down” or pounding out an anthem like “Sanctuary,” the J. Geils Band makes plain the fact that their recent success hasn’t spoiled them. The newer material sounds just as hard-edged and contemporary as it did in the studio, while the older, blues-based numbers retain the vitality that put the band on the map in the first place. In fact, the album’s most exuberant moments seem to come during its two covers, particularly the wicked remake of “Land of a Thousand Dances.” A pity the sound’s too poor to know for sure.