January 27, 2011

From shiverin' to Shakin' All Over

It's taken me several days to sit down and write about this.  I've talked about it so much elsewhere that I guess I forgot to babble about it over here, but some great video popped up on the intarwebs and reminded me that I needed to document the occasion.  So here goes...

It was appallingly cold last Friday when I headed up to NY to see Wanda Jackson, Jack White, and the Third Man House Band play at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.  Take-your-breath-away cold.  And yet a bunch of us die-hard fans came from various places around the country to stand outside for hours waiting to get into this show just so that we could get prime spots up at the front of the stage.  I've written before about the addictive effect of music and there we were, proving what junkies we all are.  It was so very worth it, though, and not only for the fantastic show we finally experienced.  The camaraderie we shared as our feet became increasingly numb (the one part that couldn't be warmed by our group huddles) made the long wait in the cold bearable.   

Angelina Seha.  Photo by Megan Vitovic
One of my compatriots, apparently taken just as she arrived roughly an hour before I did.  Note the gleeful anticipation on that angelic face, it's such a perfect representation of what we were all feeling, and continued to feel despite the cold that seeped into the marrow of our bones as the minutes slowly ticked by.  (Did I mention it was cold...?)  

About halfway through the wait, we got a little pick-me-up--  A red van pulled up and I noticed Wanda Jackson sitting in the backseat.  No one else seemed to notice, so I nudged folks to get their attention as Wanda climbed out of the van and maneuvered through the snow and the crowd to head into the venue.  Everyone else went back to huddling for warmth, not seeming to realize that if Wanda had just arrived, the rest of the band had to be close behind.  Sure enough, within a few minutes, another van pulled up and, again, no one else seemed to notice.  So after more nudging, everyone turned around to watch the entire 11-person Third Man Band, plus attendants, pile out of the van as if it were an over-sized, rock'n'roll clown car.  And, of course, that meant...

Jack White.  Photo by Peter Burdi
 One of our bunch squealed and another practically hyper-ventilated.  More importantly, it made us forget the cold for at least a couple of minutes. 

But freezing to the point of numbness out front paid off inside, as we all ended up in various spots in the first or second row.  One element that's gotten little mention in reviews is that the opening act was the Dex Romweber Duo.  For our little group, the combination of Dex and Sara with Wanda and Jack was just too mind-blowing and we were as revved up for the openers as the headliners.  Dex let us know right away that they'd be playing only a 30 minute set and that was a shame, seeing as how he and Sara tore it up as usual.  Too many of their great tunes had to be left out, though they included favorites such as Mexicali Baby, People, Places, and Things, and the always fantastic show closer, Grey Skies.  As an added treat, they had a local friend join them on standup bass for a few tunes.  And, as it turned out, they probably could have played another 10-15 minutes.  



Because then the wait began.  The hours standing outside suddenly seemed like nothing compared to the 45 minutes we spent fidgeting to the surprisingly low-key, sleep-inducing music that was piped in between sets.  We were antsy, we'd come for raucous rockabilly.  Could Wanda and Jack rip us out of the comatose state we were quickly descending into?  Hah.  Silly question...    

It was obvious at a few points that Wanda and the Third Man Band have not had much time to gel, but in many ways that added to the charm of the show. As Jack always puts it, it created a scenario for interesting things to happen. From Wanda needing lyric sheets on a few songs (a trick she nicked from Elvis) to backup singers The Cupcakes looking at Jack blankly when he asked them for a D during the band introductions, things were a touch rocky. But he just keeps going and she's so disarming that it made the show fun rather than clumsy.  The overriding feeling was one of joyous energy, as Jack danced around the stage with a grin on his face and Wanda held the crowd in the palm of her hand.  

Bit of distortion in this video, keep the volume on the low side--


Much has been made in recent articles about Wanda's new Jack-produced album, The Party Ain't Over, of the fact that she opened the door back in the 50's for practically every female rock'n'roll singer after her.  Beginning as a country vocalist, she was one of the first to put on a risque dress instead of a cowboy hat, and to growl out tunes about mean, mean men and wild times in Nagasaki. But it's obvious watching her now that she never lost her dignity or her class along the way, a lesson that too many of the female artists she paved the way for unfortunately never learned.  With any luck, they'll pick up the new album and catch one of the shows on her current tour before it's too late.    

The one and only disappointment of the night (and an incredibly minor one, at that) was that Jack had some serious equipment issues. He started out with with his Gretsch Roundup, but something happened a couple of tunes in that required them switching out not only the guitar but also one of his amps in the middle of a song. Wanda didn't skip a beat with all of that going on behind her, and it didn't seem to affect Jack at all 'cause he was all smiles even though the song was brought to a premature end. And when the audience shouted for them to finish it, Wanda & co. complied by launching into the final verse. But, aside from a couple of tunes on Claudette (one of his acoustic ladies), he ended up playing the rest of the set on his black Billy Bo which has an aunchy, hard rock tone that, to my ears, didn't provide the sweet rockabilly twang that most of the songs that night required.  This is a minor nit-pick, though, because Jack will leave your jaw dropped to the floor no matter what he plays...



Priceless moments:  First was when they began Fujiyama Mama and Wanda stopped Jack to make him count it down again more slowly. The second was watching him singing along to that song as he played. Totally made me forget my frostbitten toes.  It's unfortunate that no one seems to have captured that on video.   

Another was the clatter, bash, boom accompanying each chorus of Busted (again, careful of the sound distortion)...



And their cover of Heartbreak Hotel proves that the Queen of Rock'n'Roll could compete with the King any day of the week...



And, finally, the show ain't complete till Jack breaks a string... 



Such a way to end the night. With our ears ringing and our cheeks aching from grinning, we piled out of the venue and into the Cuban bar next door to re-live the details of the night and cement them in our memories.  Frostbite or no, I think we'd all do it again in a heartbeat.  Until next time, y'all!


Many, many thanks to the people who recorded this show and posted videos to help sustain these wonderful memories. And for anyone who's interested, there are also some excellent photos here and here.

 

3 comments:

the gardeners cottage said...

thankyouthankyouthankyou! a million x's thank you tam for this post. although, as you know i saw the la show all these videos and your review just bring it all back to me. what a wonderful night it was. i will never, ever forget it. omg. i'm still rather speechless.

xo
janet

KaliDurga said...

Ah, you're welcome, hon! I'm so glad that you got such a kick out of it. There are some great videos from the El Rey shows out there, too, so be sure to peruse YouTube when you have a moment :)

The Crow said...

What an evening you must have had! I love these videos, Tam. Wanda is amazing, there's no other way to put it. Thanks for posting these.