Music review: Postmodern Jukebox brings ragtime, doo-wop dancing fun to Norshor
The audience had big-time fun Sunday night at the NorShor Theatre, especially those dressed to the nines in period-appropriate attire for the party that is Postmodern Jukebox's "Welcome to the Twenties 2.0" tour. PMJ's creator Scott Bradlee has l...
The audience had big-time fun Sunday night at the NorShor Theatre, especially those dressed to the nines in period-appropriate attire for the party that is Postmodern Jukebox's "Welcome to the Twenties 2.0" tour.
PMJ's creator Scott Bradlee has literally written the book on "How to Turn Any Song Into Ragtime and Stride Piano," and the concert showcased 20 contemporary songs touched by the "Ragtimify" process.
After kick-starting the evening with a monster version of "Thriller," singer Michael Cunio served as the evening's master of ceremonies. Bantering playfully with the audience, Cunio launched into some serious banshee wails on both Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" and a striking reimagining of Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do."
Cunio's "Video Killed the Radio Star" was slowed down deliciously before exploding Freddie Mercury big, and later, he whipped up the crowd ripping through Swift's "Shake It Off."
Vocalist Dani Armstrong made a giant first impression with the show's second song, Britney Spears' "Toxic," going from big and brassy to a soaring soprano that descended back to a vibrant vibrato.
Armstrong, who hails from the Mae West school of diva divinity, had two other showcase moments. First, sharing the stage with tap dancer Debi Remick for Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." Then she forced the audience to grab their cellphones to capture her tearing the theater down with her towering torch song version of Sia's "Chandelier."
Robyn Adele Anderson, the original PMJ siren, provided a classy cover of Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" and had her big moment with "Careless Whispers."
David Simmons Jr. started off providing the velvet smooth vocals on Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" and Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle." Next thing we knew, he and the ladies transformed "My Heart Will Go On" into a toe-tapping '50s doo-wop chart topper.
Later Simmons and Anderson's duet of "Say Something" brought the heartache to the heartbreak. Anderson and Cunio also delivered some hellacious background singing to set up Simmons to milk his big moment on "Don't Let Me Down" by the Chainsmokers.
On Sunday night, Postermodern Jukebox was also performing a show in Gateshead in the U.K. How many musical groups can perform in different hemispheres on the same night?
PMJ can because their "little community" consists of more than 60 vocalists, musicians and tappers. The 11 talented artists appearing on stage at the NorShor were clearly allowed to make these songs even more their own within the PMJ framework.
Little things matter in a PMJ concert: the pianist riffing on "Black Orpheus," throwing a little "Take Five" saxophone into "Careless Whispers," or the horn section leading everybody in a "New York, New York" kick line during "All About That Bass."
Remick had a tap-dancing solo medley that had the audience hooting and hollering before the musicians even started playing. She also did the jitterbug with Cunio and the Charleston with Anderson.
They even threw in a tuba solo.
Capping off the evening was Simmons strutting his stuff on PMJ's latest video single, Haddaway's "What Is Love," which suddenly segued into "Shout" with everybody getting a little softer now until they were flat on the floor. Remick even tried her hand at a little juggling.
Did I mention that this was an evening of big-time fun?
Lawrance Bernabo is a professor of communications and longtime arts critic for the News Tribune.