Wanda Jackson at Compound Grill, 3/9/12

Categories: Last Night

Melissa Fossum
Wanda Jackson
See also: Wanda Jackson on Jack White's SNL Performance, Amy Winehouse, and Some Guy Named Elvis

Wanda Jackson
Compound Grill
Friday, March 9, 2012

Wanda Jackson may be 74 years old, but one would hardly know it listening to her belt out classics from her long and storied career Friday night at the Compound Grill.

See the full Wanda Jackson slideshow.

Working from a set list reaching from her earliest numbers in 1955 to her most recent album produced by Jack White (who did similar wonders a few years back with Loretta Lynn), Jackson, the "Queen of Rockabilly," was in fine form following a two week touring break. Entering the stage to a revved-up classic rockabilly beat, Jackson kicked things off with "Riot in Cell Block #9," followed by an equally rowdy "Rock Me Baby." Dressed in a frilly and spangle-y pink jacket and black pants that matched her full head of hair, Jackson's third number, "Hard-Headed Woman," elicited big cheers. Her fans, many her age or close (though there was a younger, suitably retrobilly chic contingent as well), heartily welcomed every song, hung on every joke and tolerated every song's story, a couple of which were somewhat long-winded, something even Jackson acknowledged.

Melissa Fossum
Wanda Jackson
But when she was singing, well, she still has that voice. Raw, gritty, dry, growling and emotive, Jackson's vocal edge showed how and why she earned her Queen of Rockabilly title. Coming up as a country singer, Jackson soon fell under the influence of early rock 'n' roll and pumped up the beat, often mixing both musical styles into her compositions. Elvis Presley prompted her to take it further, something the bookers at the Grand 'Ol Opry probably didn't appreciate, but plenty of others did. Her first hit, she told the audience, was "a little bit country, a little bit rockabilly." "I Gotta Know" started out twangy and slow in classic country style, but quickly sped up on a walking bass beat, before dropping back down. "Fujiyama Mama" and "Right or Wrong" offered more of a country swing drive to the rockabilly flavor, while "Mean, Mean Man" (the first rock 'n' roll song she wrote) and was straight-up and raw, her voice practically growling fury. Her mini-Elvis tribute, however, went further and was even more stripped down and churning than The King's original versions.

Jackson credited Elvis with guiding her to the rockabilly path but, "I didn't think I could be that kind of singer. I was a straight country singer, but I could sing." Clearly, Elvis saw something in the young singer that would eventually land her in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Location Info

The Compound Grill - CLOSED

7000 E. Mayo Blvd. #21, Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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