The Dex Romweber Duo has plenty of street cred including, like Wanda Jackson, the patronage of Jack White. Hitting that sweet spot with a nice bluesy sadness, but still rocking hard at all the right times (and in all the right ways) the brother and sister are skilled musicians working comfortably in a medium they've been shaping to their whims for years. Dex has a knack for plying his voice to great effect. It can be a deep growl or a silky baritone, reminiscent of Johnny Cash, as needed. The crowd seemed to enjoy what he was throwing down and were happy to groove along with Dex swimming in the depths of his lows and reveling in the sweet pain of poisonous love. The duo provided an easy entry into the retro rock atmosphere permeating the night while priming the audience for Wanda Jackson's more spirited take on similar themes and genres.
Jackson certainly did not disappoint. It was truly a pleasure to watch one of the first and feistiest ladies of rockabilly (really it's hard to place Wanda Jackson in just one category) work her magic. She exudes a certain warmth and winning charm (almost a school girlish innocence and exuberance -- it was not hard to imagine Jackson singing her heart out as a teenager and forgetting to get paid, as she recalled during the show, because she was just having too much fun to think about trivial things such as a paycheck).
And she can still growl with the best of them.
All of this and more is what Jackson brought to her live show. You just can't beat that eager and inviting energy inherent to rockabilly music and Jackson fully embodies that vibe, at turns party girl, jilted, yet never completely naive lover, seductress albeit a sweetly chaste one, gospel singer and straight up rock & roller. I felt giddy listening to Jackson relive memories from her early days playing the Ozark Jubilee and dating a young Elvis Presley. Every song Jackson sang was infused with sometimes 50 years worth of memories.
As her backing band, the High Dollars provided all of the basic foundational elements in an efficiently rocking fashion leaving most of the critical spaces open for Jackson to fill with her dynamic vocal presence. Jackson performed a nice mix of tunes sticking mostly with her older hits such as "Fujiyama Mama," but also throwing in some of the best numbers from her latest release, The Party Ain't Over. The crowd was drinking her in as she traveled the course of her career spending a little time in the country & western scene, working her way through Elvis and Chuck Berry, even sneaking in some heartfelt gospel before bringing the house down with "Let's Have a Party" (technically more Elvis, but one indelibly marked as a signature Wanda Jackson tune).
Perhaps I was simply swept up in Jackson's historical significance as a pioneering female musician, but damn if she doesn't put on a good show.