Wanda Jackson: Continental Club, Thursday, Mar 16

Wednesday Night

Wanda Jackson

Continental Club, Thursday, Mar 16

Wanda Jackson can't say Austin doesn't love her. Though the undisputed "First Lady of Rockabilly" had just finished a two-night Continental Club stand the week prior to South by Southwest, that didn't stop the faithful from packing the South Congress nightspot to capacity for another audience with the queen. Jackson's career began in Oklahoma City in the early Fifties when she was discovered by country singer Hank Thompson. By the end of the decade, she was belting out rock & roll tunes like "Let's Have a Party" and "Fujiyama Mama" with the growling veracity of Little Richard. Jackson switched to country in the Sixties, then became a noted gospel singer in the Seventies before Rosie Flores helped bring her back to rockabilly in the mid-Nineties. She's been in high demand ever since. That's because once you hear a Wanda Jackson song -- as many did for the first time on last year's excellent Rhino box set, Loud, Fast and Out of Control: The Wild Sounds of 50s Rock -- you can't help but want to see this lady sing in person. Backed by the Cadillac Angels and local pianist Earl Poole Ball, Jackson took to the stage bedecked in gold sequins and smiles. Her distinctive, high-pitched voice was in full effect on "Stupid Cupid" and "Mean Mean Man." Jackson talked about old times between songs, prefacing "Hot Dog (That Makes Him Mad)" with her recollection of getting in trouble for singing that particular song at a high school assembly. A Japanese TV crew was on hand to film Jackson singing "Fujiyama Mama," the 1959 song that was an unlikely No.1 hit in Japan with lyrics like, "I've been to Nagasaki, Hiroshima, too. The same I did to them, baby, I can do to you." The crowd seemed a bit taken aback when she took a moment to discuss becoming a born-again Christian in 1971, but her rendition of the gospel standard "I Saw the Light" drove those convictions home in a way just about everyone could identify with. Then she actually thanked the crowd for letting her talk about Jesus. "I know it's kind of personal, but it's very important to me, and I appreciate you letting me talk about it," Jackson said to a hearty round of applause. From there, it was back to rockabilly with a show-closing "Let's Have a Party" that interpolated bits of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Rip It Up." Hoots and hollers brought Jackson back to the stage for an encore, and if not for the time constraints of a showcase slot, she probably would've taken at least a couple more curtain calls from this fully converted crowd.

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