If you frequent the gig review pages on this fair site, you might see a host of complaints directed at the flock of bright phone-screens that customarily hover above the heads of a crowd. On a night such as this, short-arses like me give thanks for them, as sold-out flat-floored venues can leave us without a clear line of sight to the act on stage! Behind a forest of arms and heads, I caught some great views from a nearby iPhone 6S. Sorry about the product placement but it was a big part of my evening.
This may be the attendees' first experience of Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox outside the confines of YouTube: they're a phenomenon based simply on the recasting of modern pop songs as golden age swing standards, Motown belters or variety-hour showstoppers. The efficacy of their formula is proven by their Oxford turnout (heaving), and the freshness is maintained by a constantly rotating cast of guest vocalists, instrumentalists and dancers.
Head online to see how they do 'All About that Bass', 'Love Yourself' and more - songs I didn't appreciate before hearing them covered. And I'd never expected a Katy Perry song to be euphoric, before a propulsive, Supremes-style bassline and Sara Niemietz's all-in rasp and relish. If your cheese-threshold is unhealthily low though, I'll forgive you for not toe-tapping along to such recontextualisations.
The marks of a good cover version: does it bring out something new in the original? Does it feel natural in its new context, without being shoehorned into an unsuitable rhythm, having phrasing stretched or lyrics unwittingly sent up? PMJ pass these tests in the vast majority of cases, as the arranger's and the musicians' understanding of their chosen genres are comprehensive, and their intentions are set to 'crowd-please'.
And the O2's crowd was certainly pleased. To address possible criticism, though: are these merely the Greatest Wedding Band in the Universe? And the ultra-exuberant Tambourine Guy has limited charm. But questions get silenced by vocalists of blistering power and virtuosity. Also, who could object to an awesome tapdancing showdown? Incorporating this as lead percussion was an impressive and unusual arrangement choice, if the segment ending up slightly overlong. The pianist was on fantastic form, but the absence of Scott Bradlee himself made me wonder whether there are numerous PMJ's on tour at once, and he's on some other continent...
A crowd of guys nearby merit attention here as they absorbed so much attention on the night - their drunken cheers, inability to decide where to stand and frequent collisions with other gig-goers ensured that the main event was often turned down into backing music. I won't name names, but if I could I would with full contact details via which audience members could direct their feedback. In short, if a venue more suitable to their vibe were to host this Jukebox on a victorious return, I'd send you there for a feast of unpredictable musical quotations, New Orleans grooves and the assure of a smile. Until then, they release new videos constantly, so grab a device and fire up the jukebox.