The concept of Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox is simple: vintage covers of modern pop songs. From ragtime to soul to vintage jazz, Scott Bradlee has nurtured a growing pool of musicians and dancers to bring a little of the old school into modern music. Now a bona fide YouTube sensation, with 13 albums released in the last four years, PMJ have been busy delivering on this promise with genre bending adaptations that send chills down the spine of the listener. However, it has to be asked: does this eclectic ensemble translate to the stage?
In front of a sold out audience in Manchester’s Albert Hall, the answer proved to be a resounding yes. From LaVance Colley’s bounding and energetic compere performance, to the delightful tap-dance routines of Sarah Reich, this was musical entertainment at its finest. The band travels with multiple frontmen and woman who took the stage in turns, all of them exuding confidence and clear enthusiasm for what they were doing.
Christina Gatti kicked the night off with a cover of N Sync’s ‘Bye Bye Bye’ which can only be described as sassy, accompanied by piano, double bass, trombone and saxophone. PMJ went from strength to strength, with powerful singer Sara Niemietz blowing the audience away with a soul rendition of ‘Bad Romance’ performed in 1920s flapper gear, earning a huge ovation from the crowd.
Next on stage was Casey Abrams, a man whose haircut and copious beard earned him the moniker of ‘Hair and Soul of the Band’ from Colley. Abrams appeared on stage brandishing a brush, which he proceeded to balance on one hand to a drum-roll before launching into a fantastic New Orleans style version of Sam Smith’s ‘I Know I’m Not The Only One’. Colley then introduced “multi-talented performer” Aubrey Logan, who performed a jazzy rendition of Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’. Impressively, this included using her seemingly endless lung capacity to accompany herself with a trombone solo.
Later, Abrams re-appeared with a storming, bluesy ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ before Niemitz’s slow and soulful ‘Hey Ya!’ gave way to the first of Colley’s covers; an up-beat, almost doo-wop version of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’. Gatti re-took the stage with a steamy version of ‘Hotline Bling’, but it was tap-dancer Reich’s face-off with drummer Dave Tedeschi that almost stole the show. Reich then upped-the ante once more with her ‘The Tap Awakens’ arrangement set to a Star Wars medley. However, the band appeared to be warming up rather than winding down, and the treat of the night undoubtedly came when LaVance Colley pulled out a magnificent Motown cover of Beyonce’s ‘Halo.’
Scott Bradlee himself, who was a special guest for this leg of the tour rather than a regular performer, also took to the stage to speak to the audience before taking requests. The resulting piano based mash-up of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ‘The Pokemon Theme,’ ‘Wonderwall,’ and ‘Ground Control to Major Tom’ was suitably crowd pleasing.
Throughout the night, the audience was enraptured by the musical talent on display, but Colley encouraged everyone to get up and dance as the entire band returned to the stage for a touching rendition of ‘As Time Goes Bye’. However, the final treat was a raucous encore of ‘Shake It Off’ from the compere, which had everyone singing along and leaving with a smile on their face.
This is band for those who love music, and love every genre. Be warned though, PMJ have a knack for taking what was previously an irritating chart-topping ear-worm and transforming it into a new guilty pleasure.
This Scott Bradlee article was written by Lewis Chapman-Barker, a GIGsoup Contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse. Lead photo by jayjatrobertsonphotography