By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent
Venue: Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida–October 21, 2016
Anybody who is a YouTube aficionado has come across the genre-bending songs and videos of Post-Modern Jukebox (PMJ, for short). These are the cats that take rap, rock, and pop and twist the songs into a swing, New Orleans jazz, ragtime, or even Motown style. Scott Bradlee has gathered a group of talented musicians and singers, including American Idol alumni, into a touring show which includes music, dancing, and jokes worthy of a Broadway show. It’s that good and entertaining!
When I showed up at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida, the audience was definitely not the typical one I normally see at rock shows. No, no, people…these folks were definitely dressed to the nines in either 20s or swing garb. There were plenty of hats, feathers, long-waisted dresses, pumps, and can-can slips mingling in the lobby. Most of the guys seemed to be in dress pants or jeans—but there were a few two-toned pointy shoes, pinstriped suits, and herringbone fedoras among the mix.
The PMJ band consisted of obviously jazz trained musicians playing the keys, drums, trombone, sax, flute, and novelty instruments like kazoos and melodica. Many of the singers did double duty on the bass and even trombone. There was plenty of dancing and tapping by the talented Sara Reich, who tapped on a platform on the side which contributed to the percussion. She was mesmerizing to watch and a crowd favorite, who may even prompt concertgoers to sign up for tap dance lessons after seeing her. Mykal Kilgore served as the emcee and boy, when he sang, it was spellbinding. Let’s not forget about “Tambourine Guy” who jumped in and out of song numbers with great enthusiasm.
The arrangements of the modern songs by Scott Bradlee are totally entertaining as popular songs like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” were slowed down, jazzed up, and spiced with a New Orleans touch. It had almost a “stripper song” melody and was accompanied by a faux-stripper with large feathers dancing and teasing the singer Casey Abrams, who had literally let his hair down by this point. It was in a “man-bun” in the beginning of the show. At the end of the song the audience stood and clapped wildly (as they did after most of the songs).
Seeing “Our Heart Will Go On” as a 50s doo-wop number was a lot of fun and almost sounded like the Laverne & Shirley theme song. Ginuwine’s “My Pony” took on a very sexy and sultry twist and was even more entertaining when the lead singer went into the audience and got cozy with a gentleman saying “In Clearwater, there’s a halibut waiting to be loved.” She grabbed his hand, bringing him onstage and said, “Let me show you how I treat a man down South.” I was embarrassed for the man but I’m sure he was loving it.
Another highlight was Maiya Syke’s rendition of “Juicy” by the Notorious B.I.G., which became a jazzy number full of scat singing and jazz horns. She was also very entertaining when singing “All About the Bass” and referred to her voluptuous figure saying, “Thank you, Jesus, they are 100 percent real!” The song had almost a 1940s Caribbean or Latin feel (think Andrew Sisters “Rum & Coca-Cola”). The rendition of the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give It Away” was hysterical and the song “Creep” took on a Billie-Holiday tone.
Overall, the audience was treated to two hours of non-stop entertainment which was an absolute joy to watch! This is a must-see for all that love Broadway-type shows, swing or jazz music with all the bells and whistles.
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