Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Post Modern Jukebox – Wellington Opera House – 3 October 2017

On Tuesday night internet retro-sensations Post Modern Jukebox wrapped up their all singing-all dancing glittering showcase in the Capital to a maximum house and rapturous applause.  The well dressed, well-heeled mixed age crowd had really taken to he event, dressing in their best 1940's frocks and hairdos; some in twinset and pearls; some in tweed jackets; others in waistcoats and silk ties.  There were even a few highly waxed moustaches to be seen.   The place was packed, right up to the ‘Gods’, with nary a seat to be found.  Not that many were to stay in those seats for long.

"Wellington, How Ya Doin'" Shouted out the tall and very present Lavance Colley, who had settled himself in as compared for the night.  Right of the bat he introduces PMJ's 'heart throb', Vance Smith, who croons Broadway-style through a very sweet swing-version of Carly Rae Jepson's Call Me, Maybe.  Dressed in a skivvy, braces, tight trousers and a boater hat, all that was missing from his Mississippi Riverboat Showman garb was a striped blazer and cane.  He later gave us a fully theatrical version of Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River, complete with falsettos, multiple octave changes and other theatrical twee embellishments.

The very suave Ms Sarah Niemietz may be the youngest and newest cast member (the longest serving being the fabulous Maiya Sykes, who's toured here four times, previously) but that didn't stop her belting out a fantastic version of Gloria Gaynor's 1978 disco hit I Will Survive - only the gal made it into a 1930's torch song dripping with sultry innuendos.  Marlene Dietrich would have been proud.  Her powerful, husky alto voice was absolutely stunning, and downright sexy to boot.  Dressed in flapper dress, short bob haircut and with gams the just won't quit she was the real deal!
Also on fire tonight was the show's spectacular tap dancer, Sara Reich.  Tap is a talent that pretty much goes under the radar, these days.  Ridiculed as something only the uncool kids do, Reichstag put on a show that proved she was certainly no geek.  The best part was her 'beats battle' with drummer Dave Tedeschi, who played out a number of d'n'b tattoos on Reich's tap-board and 'attempted' a few amateur stunts. Of his own  One of them almost ended in a disastrous crash into the front row.  In reply Reich tapped up a storm in reply, mixed with a bit of hip-hop and traditional tap dancing.  It's hard to really capture it all accurately on paper but suffice to say she was definitely one of the highlights of tonight! 

Lavance Colley/ Sarah Reich
Tap dancers are all part of the great PMJ show experience but I wonder what else they can bring to the stage.  Last year we had a really entertaining performance with Casey Abrams and Adam Kubota simultaneously playing the double bass during PMJ's signature covers tune All About The Bass.(Meghan Trainor).  Later, Abrams did a few tricks with an ironing board and a beer, purloined from the front of house bar. Perhaps future shows could include more of that zaniness, or maybe a few some jugglers and conjurers.  That would really liven things up.

I was very happy to see Maiya Sykes back.  This strong, soulful black female has an amazing range, almost overwhelming at times.  If she ever performed on one of those TV shows like The Voice the rest of the contestants would most likely quit in defeat.  Her intense rendition of Radiohead's Creep was simply sublime, scaling at least four octaves at times but full of pure, raw energy.  Spine-tingling.  That said, nothing can compare to her 'jazz' interpretation of a medley of Biggie Smalls' tunes (most notably Juicy) sung in the style of Ella Fitzgerald and Cassandra Wilson, complete with scat and yet more octave-defying gymnastics.

Also back is Hannah Gill.  She did a few numbers but most memorable was an upbeat swing version of Gotye's Somebody I Used To Know.  She delivered it with such confidence and passion that Kimbra would most definitely be rethinking her own version in a live act!

Hannah Gill
Perhaps less featured this time was our old friend Lavance Colley, who was happy to let the others do the bulk of the material by he did give us some gloriously camp falsettos on Adele's Halo.  This is a song that I Once had appreciated as a Pretty good pop tune but done Colley's way you can well imagine it being used in a remake of Pricilla Queen of the Desert.  Another highlight for me.
When I recently talked to Scott Bradlee in an interview, he confided that he doesn't like to tour, instead preferring to stay in LA, reworking the latest tunes and making YouTube clips.  Many of the performers featured end up going on tour.  At present, there are three tours in full swing - A European tour, a North American tour and an Asian Australasian tour, which was just winding up.  To fill in for Bradlee on that leg Logan Thomas took over the keys.  Like Bradlee himself, he's a quiet but exceptionally capable player who communicates mainly with dry quips, nods and the occasional facial expression.  He's part of the main team with musical director Adam Kubota ("The Bass Whisperer") and enfant terrible Dave Tedeschi (drums and misguided stunts).  Also helping out, a small brass section - Nick ("The Shark") Finzer on trombone and Chloe Feoranzo on sax and clarinet.  She also came down to the front to give us another Radiohead's tune and No Alarms No Surprises.  The surprise was her huge voice - coming as it was from her small, petite stature. 
Post Modern Jukebox are already an institution on the web.  They've built up a reputation of shows that showcase exceptional talent, performed in the tradition of those old-time variety musical shows - but with modern music.  

Hannah Gill / Maiya Sykes / Sarah Niemietz
There's something uniquely 'American' about their delivery.  So, I was surprised to see no mention of or references to the recent tragic events in Los Vegas or the passing of Tom Petty. PMJ's agenda chooses to transcend reality and their motives are pure and simple: to put of a show that will knock your socks off!  There are many artists that would have chosen to dwell on recent happenings but PMJ chose to remain timeless.  They wanted to bring hope and joy so if you look at it this was then their finale version of Taylor Swift's Shake It Off spoke volumes. 


PMJ's final encore number, Such Great Heights (The Postal Service) came with many bows, cheers and a mass group selfie that involved all the road crew and theatre personnel as well on the stage.  Once again, PMJ had delivered a night to remember.  Wrapping up, Colley promised that they'd be back again.  Here's hoping they will.

All photos by LeVic Visual / Ambient Light - http://www.ambientlightblog.com/


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