Just as they did last year when they made their Palladium debut, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox wowed a sold-out crowd during its free-wheeling concert Thursday at the Carmel music hall. This time, their new revue was part of the group’s “Back in Black & White” tour.
Producer Scott Bradlee formed Postmodern Jukebox, also known as PMJ. It is an ever-changing group of musicians and vocalists that transforms modern pop hits into what sounds like retro jazz, ragtime and swing classics of the 1920s through 1950s. Ever since Bradlee started uploading music videos of his performers’ covers on YouTube, the group went from being viral sensations with millions of views, to recording 12 albums and filling prestigious venues all over the world. So far, the group has amassed over one billion views on YouTube.
Besides the novelty of hearing current pops songs that sound old-fashioned, what also distinguishes PMJ is the superb musicianship and showmanship displayed by the performers, whose dynamic energy is their hallmark. Contributing to the group’s throwback aesthetic were the retro-style gowns, dresses, heels, accessories, makeup and hairdos worn by the women and period fashions worn by the men.
Since PMJ switches up its vocalists, those seen at this concert were not the same ones I saw last year, but what was the same were voices characterized by extraordinary power and range. And whether singing solo, in duets or trios, singers simply amazed the awestruck audience, consisting of members of multiple generations who clearly worshiped the off-beat artists. Sporting a man-bun and expressing over-the-top exuberance was Casey Abrams, a tenth-season American Idol contestant, who is also a singer and musician and served as the show’s emcee. The other vocalists were Martina DaSilva, Natalie Angst, Miche Braden and Will Jay, all of them superb entertainers.
The band consisting of seasoned musicians—all with a string of impressive credits to their names and each one of them a strong showman—included music extraordinaire director Jesse Elder on piano, Dave Tedeshi on drums, bassist Steve Whipple, Jeremy Viner on saxophone and clarinet and Reggie Watkins on trombone.
Completing the ensemble was tap dancer soloist Demi Remick, whose dazzling footwork contributed to the show’s vintage-flavored aura.
Highlights of the concert for me included PMJ intepretations of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah,” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” Closing the show in an encore number was gravel-voiced rocker Abrams in a stunning soulful version of Radiohead’s “Creep.”
I love the classics of the Great American Songbook, which I believe have a depth and substance and inspirational value missing in much of today’s pop music. But because of Scott Bradlee’s brilliance in rendering contemporary music and lyrics through the styling of a bygone era, I, along with all the PMJ devotees in attendance, bridged generations and music boundaries in an evening of unbridled entertainment and buoyant, exhilarating fun.
For tickets and information about the 2018-2019 Center for the Performing Arts season go to thecenterpresents.org or call (317) 843-3800.