The top 40 in the Tardis.
The shape changing, era-morphing collective took to Sheffield O2 Academy last night to give the sort of a performance only they can deliver. And what does that show look like?
Well let me tell you.
The first thing to know about about Postmodern Jukebox live is that this is much more than a gig. It’s cabaret, its Broadway and it’s full of ‘I was there moments’. For instance, watching Casey Abrams balance a Ukulele on his finger, pull a beer from his jacket and take a sip all whilst the band behind plays some double time swing, yeah, I was there.
Scott Bradlee, creator, curator and all round piano genius, has created a revolving door band full of the best voices and talented musicians that he can find. They might not be household names here in the UK but each brings style, attitude and flawless performance to the live show. If you’ve spent anytime watching the Youtube videos they create weekly (if you haven’t I strongly suggest you do) you’ll know that there are almost too many talents to choose from but tonight we are spoiled.
The show is controlled and compered by LaVance Colley, a presence almost as bold as the striking colours on his blazer . He whips the crowd in to the frenzy and sets the stage as each singer steps out for a solo song to get warmed up. LaVance isn’t just there to clap his hands and bow his head though, oh no. This guy can sing. He takes on Halo, originally by Beyonce, with a Motown twist and near levitates when he scratches the ceiling with his high range.
We meet Cristina Gatti, a self professed Jazz pervert, and instantly she has the crowd in the palm of her hand. She looks extremely happy to be on stage and completely in her element with a big cheshire cat grin as she slinks around the stage looking equally comfortable taking on Drakes ‘Hotline Bling’ and The Strokes ‘Someday’. You wouldn’t recognise these songs, they’re being played in 1945. Cristina isn’t the only powerful female voice, she brought friends and Sara Niemietz is one of them. She dresses like a Fitzgerald protagonist and sings so beautifully whilst visibly trying not to burst with excitement. It’s her first time in Sheffield as she proclaims and believe me when I say, if she comes back, I’ll be there. She works every corner of the stage and interacts with each of the band members playfully as she works through Outkasts’ ‘Hey Ya’ and Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’.
Completing the trio is the sultry, sassy, soulful Maiya Sykes. A big voice with a big attitude and she absolutely brings the place down. Unbelievable voice control, a presence that made every hair on the back of your neck stand up and So. Much. Power. If they used glasses in the O2 academy they’d have shattered. It was a privilege to be witness such talent. Maiya puts her stamp on a number of songs but really releases on Roar by Katy Perry and Katy if you’re reading (just kidding, we know you are) she’s got you beat.
Postmodern Jukebox is all about taking the modern era and reworking, restyling and reproducing songs back to another time. That’s why Casey Abrams was a no brainer in joining the tour. He’s a jazz cat who skats and that and a true to word performer. He’s got boundless energy, a raw and raspy voice that really comes in to it’s own as he flies through Stacy’s Mom previously of Fountains of Wayne fame. He’s not just a voice. He plays double bass and on occasion double person, double bass. Yes. You read that right.
As I said before, this is not just a gig and if you need further proof in comes in the size and shape of Sarah Reich. Sarah is a tap dancer and a damn good one at that. She not only dances but brings percussion to several songs, you’ve never heard the imperial march until you’ve heard it played with piano and tap shoes. She steals your gaze whenever she takes the stage and owns the drummer in a fun little drum off.
Everyone takes the stage for the final few numbers culminating in a breathless, mile a minute performance of Taylor Swifts ‘Shake it Off’, each member getting the chance to show their soul and let loose one last time. Tambourine Guy, sorry, Grammy Award winning Tambourine Guy damn near has a heart attack bounding around the stage, bouncing off the sax and trombone player. It’s infectious and the crowds respond in earnest.
PMJ are something of an enigma to me. I’m not a fan of Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift or Drake but this troop of performing artists show that music is what you want it to be, when you want it to be. I first saw these at the Leadmill and LaVance said something that stuck with me ever since. If you don’t like something the way it is, you have the power to change it.
It sounds a little profound and easier said than done but there’s no size to this. You can change little or large and these guys are showing you how that’s done.
Thanks for reading, guys and dolls.