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Wanda Jackson suffers mightily

Royale, Boston, February 23, 2011

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Wanda Jackson may be riding high thanks to a new disc, "The Party Ain't Over," produced by that career booster of a producer, Jack White of White Stripes fame. But game as she was, this certainly was not one of Jackson's better performances.

Jackson, labeled the queen of rockabilly and a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, suffered mightily from vocal problems throughout 50-plus minute set.

But the problems didn't start with Jackson's voice. She began the show 85 minutes later than expected (she also started her last show in the Boston area quite late, by about the same amount of time), although the reason wasn't entirely clear.

Jackson's ace backing band, the Lustre Kings from Albany, N.Y., got the show started with some meaty retro sounding lines, but once Jackson finally appeared, it was clear this was not going to be her night.

She started with Rock Your Baby, a triumphant sounding song, but Jackson clearly was hoarse and could not quite deliver the lively song.

"Last night towards the end of the show, I nearly lost my voice," she said. "This morning, I couldn't even talk." She later told the crowd that she may have overdone it with a recent two-week stint in Europe where she played four or five nights per week.

Jackson had to ask the band to play in different keys than usual to enable her to put less strain on her voice. The strategy worked a bit, but the hoarseness and lack of range came through often.

Yet, Jackson was a trooper, maintaining a cheerful demeanor, although you knew that she could not be happy with how the evening was turning out.

Jackson played a few new songs, including a cover of Amy Winehouse's You Know I'm No Good along with other songs that were cornerstones of her career, including I Gotta Know and the closing show of the evening (and one of the best) Let's Have a Party.

Just before the end of the show, Jackson's husband, Wendell, came out to thank the fans for sticking by Jackson despite her problems this evening. Mr. Jackson was correct because the crowd never complained about the vocal issues.

He said he hoped they would return to the area in two or three months and told fans to hold onto their ticket stub. Presumably that means they can get in for free, but let's hope that Jackson's performance is a whole lot better next time out.