Wanda Jackson – The Luminaire – 22 April 2010
Support: Imelda May
Words by Brendan Monteiro / Photo’s by Imelda Michalczyk
It’s 8 o’clock and the 50’s era is alive and well within the confines of The Luminaire tonight, music is blaring from the house PA and from what I can see the stage is set for an incredible evening. Twenty minutes later and I feel like a terror suspect in some sort of sadistic torture camp, all the pre-music sounds the same with the high treble piercing my ears to the point where I am ready to wave a white flag and give in. There is something that just doesn’t sit right with me tonight, all the pre-gig warm up music is sung by men and it all really sounds the same to me and either feels like the drive from Wales put me ears in a bad mood or it feels like their was lack of artistic originality that shaped every song with the same simple structures. Maybe it’s just that the choice of music is poor tonight or quite possibly my young age is showing it’s distaste for ‘oldies’ classics but before a single note is played tonight my expectations are at their all time low.
Finally the beginnings of a show start to culminate with the band making their way up on the tiny stage eventually followed the Irish beauty Imelda May. The transformation of my attitude tonight completely surprised me, I went from wanting to walk out as fast as possible to being totally captivated by every sound. Imelda May and her band are a class act, she brings all the nostalgia of years gone by and ravages it with a modern spin. She kicks of the night with Feel Me and straight from the first vocal notes I am mesmerised while the rhythms and leads jump all over the place with a really good funk feel to it. The set rolls straight into a cover of Little Walter’s 1955 number one hit My Babe done in a more upbeat way.
Whatever the popular scene may be these days there is no touching how cool Imelda and her band look on stage, from Dave Priseman’s amazing trumpet skills to fill in drummer Steve Austin’s old school style (for some reason I kept wondering if he was the six million dollar man because as corny as it sounds, he played like an absolute machine). Al Gare has a musical CV that runs miles long and his presence behind the double bass is nothing short of magical with the cover song of Poor Boy really showing an emphasis on the bass. What’s also great is the chemistry between Imelda and guitarist Darrel Higham and although I know NOW that they are married it’s just really entertaining to see them work so well together and further I have to say that Darrel on a guitar is the epitome of cool, the man shreds and has this really interesting way of playing really damp sounding rhythms and countering it straight away with bright leads.
Imelda’s set drifts on through covers of Cliff Richards, Elvis and even a Gloria Jones cover of Tainted Love along with some of her own amazing songs. There are literally too many stand out moments to mention them all, the guitar solo’s and drum solo’s were met with widespread clapping and Go Tell The Devil, which has been stuck in my head ever since, received a rapturous roar of applause. Imelda might not have the hit’s or a legendary status as yet, but she’s definitely on the right track and if I had to wrap up Imelda’s performance in one sentance it would be something like “Imelda May is a grand fusion of blues, soul, jazz, funk with a slight old school ska feel; structured with rockabilly as it’s backbone and some straight-up Back To The Future/Michael J Fox rock n roll energy”.
With the crowd absolutely tantilised by the Irish star it’s finally time for Wanda Jackson to come out and rock the hell out of this crowd. Wanda Jackson doesn’t need any introductions to try and woe you into listening to her and I feel kind of daft at the thought that a couple of days ago I was oblivious to her exitstence. Her career has crossed paths with legends like the king of rock n roll Elvis, Johnny Cash and most recently Jack White. Her influence runs through a vast array of musicians of today including tonight’s opener. The fact that she is still touring at the age of 72, and not just playing a show but putting on one hell of a spectacle, is just mind blowing and it’s no wonder she is known as the first lady of rock n roll.
Wanda starts off the night with Mean, Mean Man, she has such a unique voice and although I can’t see her yet through the crowd I can immediately feel her presence as the atmosphere in amongst the crowd becomes almost feverish. Soon enough the small crammed crowd moves in a way to create a void and I get a glimpse of the queen of rockabilly, even though I am a newbie I feel a sudden rush of excitement. She finishes up the opening track to an ecstatic applause, to which she replies “I need more monitor or I’m going to lose it tonight”. When reading this you might think that possibly she’s a diva because on paper it just doesn’t come out the way Wanda says it, she does it so comically and with a pinch of “liitle girl” charm that she has the entire venue in stitches. This is the first of many slap-knee moments and she wins the entire crowd over and over each time. I have been to many punk shows were toilet humour is the order of the day but I can honestly say I have never laughed so much as what I did with Wanda on stage, she really cracks the jokes and my most memorable has to be when Darrel Higham (who once again is Imelda May’s husband) towers over her to hand her a guitar, she looks up at him with the sweetest eyes and suddenly turns it into a cheeky wink followed “Imelda, you got trouble girl”.
No disrespect to the band because they played absolutely amazingly but Mrs Jackson overshadows them the entire evening long. She plays hit’s like Fujiyama Mama, Funnel Of Love and even throws in a bit of yodeling with I Betcha My Heart I love You. It’s amazing how she contorts her voice to fit each song and for me none is as good as the way she bounces between country style singing and rockabilly like on the track I Gotta know, the transitions between styles is seamless.
Wanda has so many aspects to her set and puts on an unforgettable show and she really commands the stage with her charm. She recently was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame and even though Wanda Jackson my be from a time and era that I might not be to familiar or fond of, she brings sparkle to the stage and totally captivates me and furthermore I love the way she creates her trademark raspy sinister growl. Amy Winehouse’s song You Know Im No Good is also covered tonight but personally I always felt that the song lacked something and tonight Wanda Jackson showed me exactly what.
Sweet reunion, Jamaica and Spain,
We’re like how we were again,
I’m in the tub, you on the seat,
Lick your lips as I soak my feet,
Then you notice little carpet burn,
My stomach drops and my guts churn,
You shrug and it’s the worst,
Who truly stuck the knife in first
I cheated myself,
Like I knew I would
I told you I was trouble,
You know that I’m no good
The lyrics are dark and although Ms Winehouse does do her best at vocally giving the song a dark feel I feel that Wanda does a better job than the original, her menacing vocals give the song a more ominous feel that I think the original lacks. I have heard the original so many times before on the radio and never payed attention to it but tonight I was enraptured, what a show!