Two years ago, I raved about Postmodern Jukebox after seeing them in concert for the first time. Afterwards, my wife said, “We have to see them again next time they’re in town.” They returned last night, and we were there to see them put on another fantastic show.
PMJ was created by Scott Bradlee to do cover versions of contemporary songs in a 1930s-40s style, and their YouTube videos have amassed millions of views, but seeing them in person is a completely different experience. PMJ has two touring companies in the US, each made up of five musicians supplemented by six singers and a tap dancer, but the personnel keeps changing, so many of the performers we saw last night were new to us — but they were all very impressive.
The show-stealer is a Swede named Gunhild Carling, who doesn’t just sing, but also plays trombone. And trumpet. And harmonica. And recorder. And bagpipes. Oh, she tap dances, too. That’s her in the video above doing Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” She also did Madonna’s “Material Girl,” which you can watch here. While searching for it, I also found a clip in which she plays three trumpets simultaneously. Her performance last night brought most of the crowd (including me) to our feet.
One of the fun things about a PMJ concert is trying to figure out what song they’re covering, because their versions aren’t copies of the original. For instance, we got a torch-song take on Blondie’s disco-era hit “Heart Of Glass,” a classical-jazz fusion interpretation of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and an even-more-soulful-than-Cyndi-Lauper “Time After Time.” PMJ also did their now-famous renditions of “Stacey’s Mom,” “All About That Bass,” and “Sweet Child O’Mine.” Since we don’t keep up with current hits, we didn’t recognize some of the others but still enjoyed the hell out of them. I found the setlist online when we got home and discovered we’d heard hits by Rihanna, Bruno Mars, One Direction, and Gnarls Barkley.
This time, as we walked out of the PMJ concert, my wife said a single word to me: “Magnificent.” That sums up our experience perfectly, and we can’t wait to see them next time they’re back. Do yourself a favor: check their schedule and see Postmodern Jukebox when they come to your town.