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Wanda gives the Jackson name a lot of class

West Hollywood, Cal., The Knitting Factory, Jan. 17, 2004

By Dan MacIntosh

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - The unending battle of the pop chart divas is one of the more annoying aspects of today's music scene. Who is graduating from teen star to pop adulthood this week, and who last kissed Madonna? The media loves this sort of trash, but the folks gathered at The Knitting Factory probably couldn't have cared less.

This is because Wanda Jackson - at least in the eyes of the in-the-know - was Queen For A Day (of rockabilly, that is) during her late night Hollywood club appearance.

Backed by the three-piece Cadillac Angels, Jackson acted the kind and generous hostess throughout this roots rock celebration, in stark contrast to so many of today's overtly self-centered and overpaid attention whores. This adoring crowd sang along with every hit, as Jackson danced to the beat. So by the time Jackson got to "Let's Have A Party," her wish was this audience's command.

It mattered not if her selections were obscure or familiar ("I Gotta Know"), because this was one overwhelming - and especially knowledgeable - rock and roll audience. Jackson, who wore a red-fringed top, rocked like no 50-year recording veteran really has a right to do.

And all the while, she filled the between-song time with stories about dating Elvis and touring with Jerry Lee Lewis. Who could ask for more?

She also drew liberally from last year's outstanding "Heart Trouble" album, and even without that album's celebrity guest list on hand (such as The Cramps and Elvis Costello) to help her out in person, these recent repertoire additions mostly went off without a hitch. Well, she did forget a few of the words to the album's title track. But as she put it, that only made the song that much longer.

Toward the end of the show, Jackson took a few moments to share about her conversion to Christianity with the crowd. This brief statement of faith was followed by a rousing version of Hank Williams' "I Saw The Light." Nevertheless, it didn't seem to matter if she was singing gospel, country (The Louvin Brothers "Cash on the Barrel Head," for instance) or one of her many rockabilly favs because nothing tonight looked out of place in this queen's court. She no longer sounds like the teenager she was in the 50s, yet her voice still retains a surprising amount of spunk.

Best of all, this show was all Wanda, all the time. Instead of boring the crowd with an introductory instrumental medley of hits by her backing band - as far too many 'musical legends' are apt to do in concert nowadays - Jackson came out swinging and singing from get-go. This is one performer that gives the last name of Jackson a whole lot of class - unlike that disgraced king of pop. So long live the queen!

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