Style and Grace. That's what got the audience cheering during the Joe Jackson concert last week. Style to wrap a wide range of musical material into one coherent package; grace to present his very personal work with humor and charm.
In his concert - which was the first of this year's Concerts on the Common series - he sang, played (saxophone and keyboards), and danced his way through all the myriad styles of his career to date.
The effect smoothed out the differences between the Joe Jackson of five years ago and of today - showing a unity and maybe even a personal vision in his work.
Jackson has made quite a few musical changes since his first new-wave album appeared in 1979, drawing alternately on the raw rhythms of early rock music, the slick sounds of big-band jazz, or, most recently, the tight, classically oriented harmonies of his latest album, Body and Soul.
''All right, let's see if you recognize this one,'' he said at one point in the concert, and at first the audience didn't comprehend the assorted chords coming from his backup band. Then Graham Maby's spare, hard-thumping bass line jogged the crowd's memory and Boston Common came alive.
It was ''Sunday Papers,'' the embittered statement from Jackson's first album about the sensationalism of the press and the dangers of isolating oneself from the world.
His richest performing, though, was in ''The Verdict,'' from his newest album. In this song, he moved from the scratchy ironic delivery of some of the lyrics to a soft, contemplative voice in others. It was an emotionally and musically rich song, one of Jackson's best.