Walking into Third Man Records’ performance space to catch Wanda Jackson and her Jack White-led band was like stepping into a music video. Each band member, including back up vocalists the Cupcakes (Ashley Monroe and Ruby from Sam and Ruby), came dressed to kill in color-coordinated, vintage-looking outfits, and the venue itself was impeccably stylized.
After an opening set by the Thornbills, the packed (and I do mean packed) house came alive for Jackson, a bona fide rock and roll legend, and her band leader White, a rock and roll legend in the making, if there ever was one. Without hogging the spotlight, White kept everyone on their toes, conducting Wanda, the band, and even the audience at times with the merest of gestures. It was a joy to hear him play old school riffs and the occasional lightning-fast guitar solo, and to listen to him interact with the three-person horn section.
At 73, Jackson seemed delighted to be performing for such a predominantly young audience. Commanding the stage, she sang songs from her new, White-produced album The Party Ain’t Over. “This was the first vinyl I’ve had in a long time,” she said when introducing the album’s lead off single, “You Know I’m No Good.” Other highlights from the night included Jimmie Rogers’ “Blue Yodel #6,” “Right Or Wrong,” and the sock hop anthems “Let’s Have A Party” and “Shaking All Over.” “It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to being on American Bandstand,” quipped a co-worker of mine.
If Jackson had trouble remembering all the words to “Dust On The Bible,” or the names of all her horn players, she covered for it by being completely loveable on stage; teasing White and telling stories from her long career. “I first started singing this song in 1958, and I’m still not sick of it,” she said, before launching into her novelty hit “Fujiyama Mama.” “Rock and roll never gets old, does it?” Her words rang true, in more ways than one.