Wanda Lavonne Jackson is known to many as the “Queen of Rockabilly” or the “First Lady of Rockabilly”. An accomplished singer, songwriter, pianist and guitarist, the success that she had during the 50s and 60s paved the way not only for women, but also for rock and roll and country music genres; and she is duly recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an “Early Influence”.
I was able to get up front for her performance, joining a mixed-age crowd. It didn’t surprise me that she was able to pull kids who couldn’t have been out of their teens to her show. After all, one of her more recent albums, 2009’s “The Party Ain’t Over” was produced by Jack White (which, by the way, was her first album to break into the Billboard Top 200, peaking at number 58.
When the lights dimmed, and the band started playing, I could see a small woman in a flamboyant, pink top make her way downstage. The crowd cheered loudly as their heroine took her steps forward, and when she addressed the crowd with a, “Hello,” the concert hall within the Queen Mary erupted.
Though in her mid 70’s, Wanda Jackson, like Ray Campi, gave a performance with such attitude and passion, that I could only imagine what she would have been like back during her hey-day. She yodeled, she growled, and she punched out notes like a pro, and the audience ate up every second of it … as long as they weren’t singing along with her.
In between songs, she would tell some stories as a segue into what she would perform next. She spoke adoringly about her brief time “dating” (“If you called it that,” as she noted) Elvis before vamping into Heartbreak Hotel. She reminisced about her experience making music with Jack White and the “disagreement” she had with the uber producer about covering Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” before singing it.
I loved watching Wanda Jackson perform. I loved the way she interacted with the audience, marveling at their youth, and even joking about their hair color and body piercings. I loved watching the look in her eyes when the youthful crowd sang along to her classic tunes.
Towards the end of her set, she reached out to those of her fans that were lined up at the front; shaking/holding whatever outstretched hand that was reaching out to her. I reached out as well, and when she grasped my hand, and mouthed, “Thank you,” while looking into my eyes, it was a moment I’ll not soon forget.
I couldn’t find a setlist of the songs that she performed online, but I did take a picture of it (which I know isn’t the correct order, as the “You Know I”m No Good” isn’t even listed, which is included in the photographs below. If you were there, and know the order of the songs performed, please let me know and I’ll add it here.