Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox
November 21, 2023
In its cavalcade of top-flight performers giving their retro spin to songs with permanent residency in our brains, the Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) concert is authentically one of a kind. At the risk of dating myself, imagine a hip Lawrence Welk Show
line-up with tap dancing and throwback costumes, minus the champagne bubbles and accordionist Myron Floren, in front of a retro backdrop right out of Fritz Lang's Metropolis
The crowd at the Paramount Denver
concert begged for more. Many were costumed as 1920s flappers, gangsters in fedoras, top hats, tails and tiaras, supporting PMJ's vintage vibe, and were only slightly outdone by the outfits on stage. One large contingent dressed to the nines posed for photos in the lobby. At the end of the two-hour show, one concertgoer said his throat was sore from cheering throughout the performance.
The PMJ concept was developed 12 years ago when New York
City pianist Scott Bradlee
began shooting music videos with college friends in his basement apartment, reworking modern-day pop tunes with a jazz, ragtime, and swing feel. When his YouTube videos went viral, Bradlee and company formed a rotating traveling collective known as Postmodern Jukebox, which performed contemporary hits with retro-cool joie de vivre. Although his name is in the title, Bradlee doesn't tour with the band. The current tour is aptly labeled "Life in the Past Lane."
Rogelio Douglas, Jr. worked double duty as the evening's emcee/ringmaster and was a featured singer on several songs. He's rightfully considered a triple threat, having made his mark as an actor, singer/songwriter and dancer. He kept up the mood and managed the pace throughout the evening, opening with a surprising Cab Calloway
medley of "Hi-De-Ho" and "Thriller."
The Ladies of PMJ featured tatum langley
, Sarah Potenza, Allison Young
, and Effie Passero. By far, Passero was the powerhouse vocalist of the bunch, receiving the most standing ovations for her renditions of Leonard Cohen
's "Hallelujah" and a spaghetti-Western version of "I Was Made for Lovin' You" by hard rockers Kiss. Passero became famous on ABC's American Idol
talent show, earning the well-deserved nickname "Puro Fuego" (Pure Fire).
Up-and-coming tap dance superstar Demi Remick thrilled the crowd with her skills during a Super Mario Brothers medley and a closing Wonder Woman-esque saber tap dance. Remick is also a choreographer and burlesque artist who performs and teaches internationally. Her amplified tapping and twirling punctuated the sets and helped shift the tempo. PMJ's fabulous band featured Tony Kieraldo
(piano), Anthony Castagna (guitar/banjo), Kyle Morgan (sax/flute), J.P. Floyd (saxophone/clarinet/)trombone), Adam Kubota (bass/bandleader), and Willie Ray Moore (drums). An unexpected concert highlight was when Moore took the spotlight to sing Soundgarden's eerie "Black Hole Sun," but smooth and gentle, with suddenly unleashed bravado and crashing drums. Yet another highlight was Douglas Jr.'s intense cover of Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive," which brought another standing ovation. He then humbly and generously acknowledged by name not only each of the performers on stage but also the behind-the-scenes essential playersengineers, sound staff, road crew,\ and management.
There were many jaw-droppingly original renditions of classic tunes. Potenza gave new meaning to "Power of Love," bumping and grinding across the stage in her red-sequined gown, accompanied by Floyd's soaring clarinet solo. Young transformed the county classic "Man! I Feel Like A Woman" into a power-belted Broadway blockbuster in her pink chiffon dress and gemstone choker, and her "Mr. Blue Sky" turned saucy on a high stool with an acoustic guitar. "(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love, and Understanding" became Potenza's rousing gospel tune with a testifying audience. And the roof virtually came down during "Hallelujah," as almost operatically performed by Passero, finished with Moore's thundering drums, and...another standing ovation. There was nothing subtle about Potenza's sassy "Bad Guy," complete with provocative, hand-on-hip audience scanning for a "BIG T-bone (steak) man" that had the horn section crouching for self-protection. "All About The Bass" with all the Ladies of PMJ included high kicks worthy of a Rockettes' holiday show, working up the whole crew to a grand finale and standing, stomping audience ovation.
When MC Douglas asked if the crowd wanted the show to "not continue," instantaneous booing brought him to acquiesce to a final full spectacle encore, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," only to be followed by Passero, barefoot and tattooed, dropping to her knees, pounding the stage with Radiohead's "Creep," then leading the still-standing crowd to raise and wave their lit cellphones, to her blistering final high notes. Whew.
The evening ended with Douglas turning for a band selfie, thanking the roaring crowd, and adding, "Thank you for supporting live music because AI is a real thing!"
Medley: Hi-De-Ho/Thriller, Basket Case, The Power of Love, Man! I Feel Like A Woman; I Was Made for Lovin' You; Super Mario Bros Medley; Burn; Radioactive; Die For You; Band Member Solos Interlude; Black Hole Sun; (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding; Zelda Medley; Die for You; All About That Bass; I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Encore: Creep