Sunday, November 20, 2011
Last night was a big one for a couple of reasons. Not only was I going to see Hall of Famer Wanda Jackson, I was going to see her in Nashville's newest venue, Marathon Music Works. This was their much anticipated big opening party. They had even given out hundreds of tickets to those who had participated in the contest to name the place, myself included. Even when I got to will call and my name wasn't on the free ticket list as expected, they still gave me a free pair and said "thanks for coming, have a good time." That was a pretty cool way to be in a situation where they could have been jerks. Being cool goes a long way with someone like me.
The new Marathon Music Works is exactly what Nashville needed. It's the venue that bridges the gap between places like Exit In and The Cannery that can hold five or six hundred people, and the Ryman and War Memorial auditoriums that hold a couple thousand. The wide open warehouse style can easily hold over a thousand people, and the crafty layout makes for easily accessible bars and bathrooms, as well as a great view of the stage from just about anywhere in the room. The sound was clear and plenty loud, and the light rig was just enough to make it look good, but not overpower the band. Overall this place gets an ecstatic two thumbs up from me. I can't wait to see more shows here.
The opening band was the Black Belles, a relatively new girl band who caught the eye of Jack White and got scooped up by Third Man Records. Their pale faces and dark eyeliner paired with all black dresses and wide brimmed black hats set the spooky tone for their macabre garage rock. They gave us a solid 45 minute set of crunchy, upbeat tunes that would have easily landed them in the Addams family's top five.
After a couple of sitings of the aforementioned Mr. White and fellow Raconteur Patrick Keeler, some "Soul Satisfying" spins from Johnny Jackson, and a nice little speech from Mayor Karl Dean, Ms. Jackson's band, The High Dollars, came out and got the show going with a couple of tunes sung by Heath Haynes. A few numbers into that, Ms. Wanda Jackson appeared to a huge ovation. She was all decked out in her frilly pink jacket and huge beehive hair, and she wasted no time pointing that little finger in the air and shakin' those hips. She rolled through old classics like "I Gotta Know", "Fujiyama Mama", and "Hard Headed Woman", and she even paid tribute to her old friend and brief sweetie Elvis Presley which included "Heartbreak Hotel". It was awesome. She then moved on to gush about the afore-aformentioned Jack White and the record they recently made together called The Party Ain't Over, and did some of those songs including "Shakin' All Over", and gave some heartfelt love to the late Amy Winehouse with her version of "You Know I'm No Good". By the time they finished with "Let's Have A Party", and encored with "Great Balls Of Fire", Ms. Jackson blew kisses and left the stage as gracefully as she had appeared.
It was truly an honor to finally get to see this national treasure perform. Her intersong banter was as charming as it was endearing, like having a rock and roll lunch with your sweet grandmother. She shared stories about accepting Christ as her savior, and she spilled the beans on Elvis being a good kisser. Whenever an artist introduces a song they were playing in 1954, it is a special occasion, and this night was full of those moments. Wanda Jackson's title of the Queen of Rockabilly is definitely deserved, and she lives up to it with grace and dignity, along with a little bit of sass and mischief.