December 29, 2012
Over the past few years, Wanda Jackson's career revival has been unparalleled. The singer has lived through the many changes in both the sound and face of music, and will likely be the only person in modern music to truly say that she's seen it all. After all, will there ever be another who dated and received career advice from Elvis Presley and had an album produced by Jack White? Yeah, probably not.
Jackson continues to tour and work at a tireless pace that would be the envy of many young whippersnappers. During one sequence in November, Jackson flew from Berlin to Los Angeles just in time for an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. And while younger bands may have been weary from the jet lag, she pulled the performance off with ease.
After a slew of rockabilly acts took up most the evening, the Rock N Roll Hall of Famer finally hit the stage at around 11:45 p.m.. Usually around that time, many people her age would be snuggled up and long asleep, yet Jackson and her backing just started to get cooking. Though she isn't exactly fleet of foot these days, the Oklahoma-native still busted out some moves that had the crowd twistin' and turnin' to the music.
The scene at in the main room (Peter Murphy was in the Constellation Room, which certainly made for an interesting mix of characters throughout the night) was very much out of the Jackrabbit Slim's scene in Pulp Fiction. It was if The Observatory was transported back in time to the 1950s when rockabilly, blues and rock were first becoming mainstream. Yet none of this felt out of place at all. Seeing Jackson live you can't help but respect not only the longevity of her career, which began in 1956, but the staying power of her tunes.
Her latest album, Unfinished Business, picked up where her last one left off. Produced by Justin Townes Earle, Jackson informed the crowd that the album was a return to her roots and though they weren't as familiar with the songs, people appeared to boogie and nod along as if they were being introduced to new friends.
Some of the most poignant moments happened when Jackson reached deep into her bag of stories. Sharing the obvious Elvis anecdote before playing a few covers of his, she saved her kindest words for the international man of mystery, Mr. White. She talked about how he prodded her into covering Amy Winehouse's “You Know I'm No Good,” while doing it with the kindness of what she called a “velvet covered brick,” since he always gets his way, and goes about it so politely.
Wanda Jackson's resurgence over the past few years has been nothing short of remarkable. While many of contemporaries have long retired, the Queen of Rock N Roll keeps on chugging along and surprisingly, has put on the crispest performances of her career. Though she may not be reaching the mainstream like in her salad days, Jackson has still managed to touch a nerve with fans, which isn't too shabby for a woman who could have retired long ago. She wasn't lying when she said the party ain't over two years ago and if she keeps forging ahead at this pace, it won't be for a long time.
Critical Bias: Like a fine wine, Wanda gets better with age.
The Crowd: See above.
Random Notebook Dump:When I'm 75, I hope to have as much pizzazz as she has.