TVD Live Shots: Wanda Jackson and Jonny Fritz and the In-Laws at the Hamilton, 12/11

I’ve seen Wanda Jackson three times to date, and last Tuesday night her wit and voice were as sharp as ever.

Ms. Jackson performed at The Hamilton, a space I’d not visited yet. Down the illuminated stairs, among the candle lit tables were older white haired fans, families with kids, and the occasional twenty-something couple. This didn’t appear to be the most raucous of audiences and, given the laid-back atmosphere of the venue, I expected not much at all from the crowd during the show.

First up was Jonny Fritz and The In-Laws on stage. Four songs in, the evening started falling into place. Fritz’s songs with their extreme literalness (“Monday is the day the trash goes out. Oh my god, I’d better make a list…”) seemed to take hold of the audience who laughed and clapped along to the the music.

Fritz himself began to appear more comfortable, laughing with his bandmates and dancing on stage. Fritz’s voice, a little John Denver, a little sarcastic Virginia twang, coupled with the skill of his band, made for a fine opener. If you’re a fan of songs with some storytelling and a lot of slide guitar, Fritz and his band are your men.

What is there to say about Wanda Jackson that hasn’t already been said during her six decade career?

She truly is the Queen of Rock and Roll—always has been and, after witnessing her performance on Tuesday night, she always will be. Strolling out on stage in a white fringe jacket and opening with “Riot in Cell Block Number Nine,” Ms. Jackson owned the show. “I’m glad to be here—heck, at my age I’m glad to be anywhere!” she quipped, and with a quick swivel of her hip, pointed to her drummer to launch into the next song, “Rock Your Baby.”

Ms. Jackson used the set to take the audience on a journey through her career—her sweet, sultry Oklahoma accent carrying us through all of her greatest hits. By her fifth song,”I’ll Bet You My Heart I Love You,” she was yodeling like she was seventeen and on her first tour with Elvis.

Now, it wouldn’t be a Wanda Jackson show without a little talk of Mr. Presley. Ms. Jackson described the first time she met Elvis, and despite his stature she had “never heard of him” and was surprised when she walked into a studio to see the King in a yellow sport coat. “I’d never seen a man wearing yellow back in ’55,” she explained, “especially in Oklahoma!” She went on to describe the joy she felt in 2009 when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and ended her recollections of Elvis with a cover of “Heartbreak Hotel.” Although a cover, the song was sung like it had been written for Wanda Jackson and Wanda Jackson alone.

Ms. Jackson chatted about the album she recorded with Jack White, describing the recording of The Party Ain’t Over with the White Stripes man as fun, but that Jack White could be likened to a “velvet covered brick,” which segued into her cover of Amy Whinehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.”

Although she appeared in good health while center stage, drinking what looked like wine and joking around with members of her backing band, it was only when she stepped to the side of stage to address her husband did she look absolutely exhausted, a glimpse behind the curtain of hard working rock royalty.

Ms. Jackson has made music and toured since was a teenager, and six decades later, she can play a 2 hour set most worthy of the title, “The Queen of Rock ‘n Roll.”

JONNEY FRITZ AND THE IN-LAWS

Words: Kristin Eliason | Photos: Richie Downs

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