Howard Jones, 1980s Hitmaker and Undersung Synth Pioneer, Returns to SF

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Howard Jones. (Artist Photo)

Howard Jones had so many upbeat hits in the 1980s ("Life in One Day," "Things Can Only Get Better," "New Song") that his sizable accomplishments in synthesizer innovation were overshadowed in the public consciousness by Billboard charts and overly styled magazine photoshoots. But Jones, who performs July 6 at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, knew more about the ins and outs of what at the time was a new frontier in music-making than his hairsprayed, neon-clad image let on. Watching old live footage of Jones on stage, juggling a Roland Jupiter 8, Roland Juno 60, Yamaha DX7, SCI ProOne, Emu Drumulator, Simmons SDSV, Moog Prodigy and Yamaha CP-80 while singing, one can't argue: he deserves to be in the lineage of electronic keyboard greats.

These days, Jones doesn't lug so many vintage synthesizers around on tour ("I know people really love to see them, but they get destroyed by touring," he's explained), preferring newer, more controlled technologies like Ableton and Mainstage. But the songs remain the same: "Like to Get to Know You Well," "What is Love," and the probing ballad "No One is to Blame" capture a combination of internal questioning and external optimism that's rendered the now-64-year-old Jones timeless. No matter what equipment he uses, to paraphrase the song, he turns a dream into action.

Howard Jones performs with Men Without Hats on Saturday, July 6, at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. Details here.