Peter Wolf Cape Cod Times Feature

Cape Cod Times Peter Wolf

Legendary singer has the blues, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Having first ascended to the highest rung of the pop music ladder decades ago, Peter Wolf is in a unique position to reflect on how much the music industry has changed over the years.

"PeterFor one, he notes, there are far fewer record stores. That fact might seem of little consequence in an age where music largely exists to be heard for free online, but for a guy who first cut his teeth spinning tunes on the air before making several hit records himself, it matters.

“The music industry was the first major industry to be decimated by digital technology,” Wolf said Thursday when reached by phone. “The record stores are gone. Vinyl has had its little resurgence, but those stores aren’t there the way they used to be anymore. iTunes has disappeared, radio’s pretty much gone. It’s so different.”

Wolf may be an analog man living in a digital world, but for everything that’s changed and evolved around him, much more has remained the same. At 74, he’s still the same tried-and-true blues rocker at heart, the same master showman who made his bones first on the airwaves of Boston’s legendary WBCN and later as the indefatigable leader of the J. Geils Band. Trends and fads come and go, but Wolf, who returns to the Cape for a two-night stand at the Payomet Performing Arts Center in Truro on Thursday and Friday, has thrived on his blues bona fides for more than five decades.

“I think blues has been the foundation of gospel, R&B, soul, and even country,” the singer says of the genre’s ability to live on through the decades. “If you listen to Jimmie Rodgers, or if you listen to Hank Williams, those artists were brought up by blues players. That’s how they learned. Elvis Presley, Big Boy Crudup, a lot of their stuff was highly blues-influenced. It’s a primal foundation of what you and I would call rock ‘n’ roll.”

The J. Geils Band’s gritty, barroom juke blues made the group one of Boston’s great rock ‘n’ roll exports. Their music, particularly in the pre-“Centerfold” era, perfectly meshed with the city’s blue-collar attitude. But Wolf’s fascination with music was actually born in his native New York, where he regularly frequented such celebrated sonic shrines as The Apollo, even as a kid. In his own words, he was “baptized into rock ‘n’ roll.”

“I was 10,” he recalls. “I saw Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Seeing those artists at a young age, I was a witness to the importance and the power of a live show. When I go out to see a band, I don’t want to hear a record. I want to see something that’s gonna absorb me and bring me in deeper.”

Wolf still yearns for that connection, not just with audiences, but also with the people he plays with. The singer continues to successfully navigate his way through a healthy solo career, thanks in no small part to his longtime backing band, the Midnight Travelers. His 2002 record “Sleepless” is ranked among Rolling Stone’s Top 500 records of all time. Subsequent follow-ups, including 2010′s “Midnight Souvenirs” and 2016′s “A Cure For Loneliness,” also recorded with the Travelers, also were met with solid reviews and sales.

Between shows, Wolf and his band are in the midst of preparing a new record, one the singer says brings things back to his down-and-dirty roots. “I call it Triple-R D: rocking, raunchy, rolling and defiant,” he says of the new record. “It has a raunch to it. This record is going to have a different kind of raunch than the previous one.”

The Payomet shows return Wolf to an area he has long grown familiar with. He and his family spent time in Provincetown when he was young, and he credits the experience with fostering his love of music and art. Later, he would familiarize himself with venues such as O. Dee’s Plantation in Hyannis and Cape Cod Coliseum as a performer.

But for as much time that can be spent looking back on his already-storied career, Wolf prefers instead to set his sights on what’s next.

“It’s not about not looking back, because what kind of fool doesn’t learn from the past? You need to always remember where you’ve been, but the fundamental thing is knowing where you’re going.”

Who: Peter Wolf & the Midnight Travelers

When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday

Where: Payomet Performing Arts Center, 29 Old Dewline Road, North Truro

Tickets: $38-$85

Reservations: 508-487-5400 or


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