I have seen my share of some of the world’s top entertainers and acts at the Palladium since it opened in 2011, but the Postmodern Jukebox concert I attended Thursday at the grand music hall at Center for the Performing Arts is one of the most dynamic and exciting live shows I have ever seen at the Carmel venue.
Formed by arranger and producer Scott Bradlee, Postmodern Jazz, aka PMJ, is a rotating collective of musicians and vocalists that transforms modern pop hits that sound like retro jazz, ragtime and swing classics of the 1920s through the 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.
Besides the novelty of hearing current pop songs that sound old-fashioned, what struck me most about PMJ was the superb musicianship and showmanship displayed by the performers whose dynamic energy was such that the duration of the two-hour concert simply flew by.
Contributing to the group’s throwback aesthetic were the tongue-in-cheek, retro-style gowns, dresses, make-up and hairdos worn by the women and the period fashions worn by the men.
Since there are multiple PMJ casts in its touring shows, names and bios of performers were not provided, aside from singer Robyn Adele Anderson. Consequently, as much as I would like to single out certain performers, not knowing their names, it’s impossible for me to praise them individually as they deserve. Suffice to say, the singers all possessed voices of extraordinary power and range and whether singing solo, in duets or trios, they simply dazzled the enthusiastic, adoring audience, composed of multiple generations. Likewise, high-caliber performances by the group’s seasoned musicians also contributed to the concert’s wow-factor.
Highlights of the concert for me included PMJ’s renditions of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” Taylor Smith’s “Shake It Off,” Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop,” and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.”
Though I appreciate contemporary popular music, I prefer the classics of the Great American Songbook, which I regard as having more depth and substance and infinitely more inspirational value than the former. But because of Scott Bradlee’s genius at melding the music and lyrics of the present with the stylings of a bygone era, I, along with the PMJ aficionados present, crossed generations and music boundaries in an evening of pure entertainment and some much needed escapism.