Postmodern Jukebox is a hugely enjoyable show with distinct, old fashioned charm. Harking back to the era of great house bands and jukebox shows of the mid-twentieth century, the Thebarton Theatre proved to be the perfect venue, a genuine old school performing hall that would have seen plenty of gigs like this in its time. Of course the ragtime, jazz and big band music of yesteryear never made reference to Instagram or twerking, but that’s just part of the fun.
The conceit of the show is to take modern pop songs and reinvent them as if they belonged to the musical styles of the past, and it works perfectly. PMJ started out as a YouTube project in the lounge room of creator Scott Bradlee (exploding in popularity to millions of views worldwide), but it’s in this live format that the idea finds its greatest expression.
At the heart of the concert is a five-piece band: bass, drums, keyboards, woodwind and brass. They’re a tight unit, capable of making a huge sound; at times it certainly feels like there are twice as many musicians on stage. The band is complemented by five highly accomplished singers who rotate through the performance, taking turns on lead vocal and, at other times, contributing to some incredible harmonies. Throw in a tap dancer and you’ve got a recipe for one highly entertaining evening.
It’s a very slick show, everything has been carefully put together to maximise the entertainment factor, with proceedings in the capable hands of singer / MC, LaVance Colley. The vocalists are uniformly outstanding, providing a range of highlights. Of particular note were Melinda Dolittle’s spine tingling soul and the showmanship of the multi-talented Casey Abrams.
In a show like this, however, it is the arrangements that prove to be the real star, with the best ones able to completely free themselves from their original context: ‘Womanizer’, ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ and ‘My Heart Will Go On’ were among the best on this count. The finale, ‘Stacy’s Mom’, was also great fun, sending us home in high spirits.
Postmodern Jukebox is promising to return again soon. It’s a show that provides so much entertainment, a real celebration of music and performance. Be sure to grab a ticket next time they swing by.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor
Pictures courtesy of Postmodern Jukebox