Save for a reggae-spun “Summer in the City,” Joe Cocker keeps his renditions of others’ works faithful to original recordings these days. It can make for a bit of a humdrum record, as on his latest, “Heart and Soul,” but in concert he injects enough R&B-inspired soul to make a satisfying statement no matter what he’s singing.
At 60, Cocker is nearly 36 years removed from his landmark Woodstock perf, ingenious covers of Beatles tunes and fiery drunkard persona. Now donning black slacks and a sport coat, he continues to prove himself a warrior; when he hits the concert stage he is still capable of hitting his fabled scream in “With a Little Help From My Friends” and crumpling in the right places on “You Are So Beautiful.”
Cocker wheeled out the half-dozen tunes that make up “Heart and Soul” (New Door/Universal) and, in the bare-bones setting at the Wiltern, proved to have a more convincing handle on the material than evidenced on the overproduced disc. He sizzled on show opener “Chain of Fools” and later on “I Put a Spell on You”; his “What’s Going On?” was meritorious and U2’s “One,” the most dangerous tune to cover in the batch, came off A-OK.
The Cocker classics were turned in superbly as well. “Delta Lady” to “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” to, most especially, “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” a Randy Newman number that earned a second life via “9½ Weeks,” all were potent.
Impressively, within the Cocker growl he was consistently in tune — a model for “American Idol” contestants who don’t seem to grasp the idea of being an original and singing someone else’s song exactly the way it was recorded.