Wanda Jackson, Continental Club, October 24
Continental Club, October 24 It's not very often you get to see a rockabilly legend. We lost Carl Perkins last year, Jerry Lee Lewis is showing up less frequently, and a handful of long-in-the-tooth lesser lights still make the rounds now and then. Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Elvis -- they all became plant food long ago. When you do see one of the originals, it's reassuring to see one who's still on top of their game, rather than with all the teeth gone out of their music and gums. The second of Wanda Jackson's two birthday bashes at the Continental Club opened with a bevy of the singer's Austin proteges doing strong treatments of her songs; Marti Brom, Susanna Van Tassel, Toni Price, Lou Ann Barton, and the extraordinary Libbi Bosworth. Add a backup band like the one backing Jackson and her musical progeny, and there was no going wrong: Casper Rawls on guitar, Sarah Brown on bass, Lisa Pankratz on drums, Earl Poole Ball on piano, and Rosie Flores on guitar. All night long, the rhythm section was as solid as a '53 Buick; Flores would play something tasty but sane on guitar, then Rawls would answer it by letting rip with something berserk. The Austin gals were more than fine, kicking off with Brom and her onstage charm and then wrapping up with everyone together doing a rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Jackson's 61st. A short break, then the main event: Let it be said here, for the record, that Wanda Jackson doesn't sound any different than she did in 1963. She still gets that growl in her voice, those Elvis-like hiccups and that Jayne Mansfield chirp just like 40 years ago. And she played the crowd like a grand piano, with the appreciators up front and the jitterbuggers all over the place, "Stupid Cupid," prompting just enough audience participation. "Riot in Cellblock #9," "Fujiyama Mama," "Rock Little Angel" -- she pulled 'em all out and laid 'em on thick. Dale Watson got up onstage for a rendition of "Jackson," after which Jackson regaled the crowd with tales of Elvis and Jesus before launching into a version of "Let's Have a Party" that barely left the Continental standing. All the latter-day, fifth-generation rockabilly cats & kittens just better hope that they can still rip it up at age 61 like Wanda can. Or even at 35.
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