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Review: Wanda Jackson has some kind of party at the Straz Center in Tampa




Wanda Jackson is, to all appearances, and despite a wardrobe a bit flashier than your typical septuagenarian, refined, well mannered and reasonably reserved.

Then she starts singing and all hell breaks loose.

I drink a quart of Sake!
Smoke dynamite!
I chase it with tobaccy!
And then shoot out the lights!

Jackson’s appearance has been belying her voice since the ‘50s. Early publicity photos showed a properly wholesome young lady but her nitro-fueled voice had the rockabilly boys cowering behind their big bass fiddles.

She seems to have lost very little of that voice based on Friday’s performance at the Straz Center’s Jaeb Theater. She may need a little help on the chorus “whoos” of Let’s Have a Party, but that’s about the extent of it. When she sings Fujiyama Mama, quoted above, there’s no doubt she can still “cause destruction just like the atom bomb.”

Backed by excellent Nashville rockers Heath Haynes and the Hi-Dollars, Jackson strolled through a set that featured old favorites and lots of anecdotes, as well as tunes from this year’s Jack White-produced The Party Ain’t Over.

She performed several songs from the album, including Johnny Kidd & the PiratesShakin’ All Over and Eddie Cochran’s Nervous Breakdown. It was refreshing to hear the songs minus White’s heavy-handed arrangements.

Give White credit, though, for finding unlikely material for Jackson, such as Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good.

It’s an odd choice, for sure. Lyrics of dark self-loathing aren’t part of Jackson’s usual repertoire. But she sang it as convincingly as she did her rockabilly hits and the Hank Williams spiritual, I Saw the Light.

Jackson said some of Winehouse’s lyrics were too sexually explicit. It was telling, because Jackson never has needed overt references in her music – her voice alone still packs more danger, sex and violence than a mountain of modern-day metal, rap and pop-tart drivel.

Whether she was singing R&B by a doomed 21st century talent or rock ‘n’ roll by her onetime touring partner and boyfriend Elvis Presley, Jackson made the songs her own. She turns 74 Thursday but she’s still a raging teenage wildcat when she sings.

-- Curtis Ross, tbt*

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 11:35pm]


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