By the time a song makes it into Bruce Jacques set list, it has transcended genre and entered the broadest musical style of all: Bar Music.
Jacques is a master of connecting musical dots, linking Neil Diamond to Lady Gaga; Journey to Train; "American Pie" to "Red Solo Cup." And he does it with a big dollop of humor, spoofing pop music's finer moments, from Axl to Britney.
"I don't pay attention to pop radio," says Jacques who has been performing since 1977. "The songs come to me when people start talking about them."
Once a song or an artist hits mainstream critical mass_ that point where young and old alike know the tune or its singer_ Jacques then decides what to do about it .
He can play it straight; he can deliver it in costume with a comedic twist; he can stream the lyrics on the LED sign he has on stage and create a singalong; or he can roll it into a medley. Using synths and computers for backing tracks as he plays guitar and sings, Jacques is the modern version of the one-man band (combined with a human jukebox).
Jacques returns to the Coppertop Thursday with an 8 p.m. show.
"I just make it all entertaining. There are many great songs I could play, but I stick to songs people know. If I just played 'Piano Man' and then a song they didn't know, that's when everyone would go for a bathroom break," he says.
Jacques says that with the explosion of country crossover hits such as "Toes" and "Chicken Fried" and a recent crop of frothy Top 40 hits along the lines of "Hey, Soul Sister" and "I Gotta Feeling," he's rarely seen it better in terms of adding tunes to his repertoire.
Interestingly, songs rarely ever die off completely once a part of the Bar Music canon.
"It's weird," Jacques says. "I play so many different kinds of places that I can usually find the right setting for a song once it's part of the show. Certain songs work in Boston on a Saturday night, and others are better for a show with kids."
Jacques assures, though, that whatever the occasion_ wedding, party, kids show, or ski-lodge concert_ he has the tunes to fit the mood.
"That's a huge part of what I do," he says. "Figuring out what the crowd is feeling."