REVIEW: Scott Bradlee's "Postmodern Jukebox" — Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall
Updated: Nov 20, 2021
"PMJ takes current songs and flips them on their heads, converting them into high energy, hand clapping jazzy masterpieces."
Scott Bradlee's “Postmodern Jukebox” roared into Segerstrom Center for the Arts (SCFTA) at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall last night, November 18th, in a sizzling Grand Reopening Tour performance that featured an ensemble of multi-talented singers and musicians, bringing some of modern music’s biggest hits alive with Bradlee’s generation-spanning classic styles of bygone eras.
Known for putting pop music in a time machine, PMJ’s dazzling Grand Reopening Tour thrilled a live, music-starved audience in the concert hall, just one stop of many on their 60-city show junket across the US and Canada this fall.
Founded in 2011, and recognized for their vintage take on popular songs, “Postmodern Jukebox” skyrocketed to fame on YouTube, when, in 2012, their cover version video of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop” went from a viral phenomenon, reaching one million views in its first week, to a worldwide juggernaut, amassing five million subscribers on their channel. Soon after, their debut album introducing “Postmodern Jukebox” hit #8 on the Billboard jazz chart, prompting tours across the globe, including memorable shows at Radio City Music Hall in NYC.
PMJ has gone on to feature swing-flavored takes on hits like One Direction's "Steal My Girl," to the 1950s doo wop era, to Postal Service's "Such Great Heights," to Motown's golden years, and to The Backstreet Boy's "I Want It That Way," shaping them, arranging them, without losing their soul. Their evolving repertoire also includes covers of Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop,” Katy Perry’s “Roar,” and Meghan Trainor's “All About That Bass.” The diverse band has featured 70 performers, including Dave Koz and Hailey Reinhart of American Idol fame.
In 2015, they were noted in Billboard Magazine for their Motown version of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” and their successful Welcome to the Twenties Tour, which kicked off in 2019 as “the most sensational ’20s party this side of The Great Gatsby.”
But, for a band so deeply rooted in Jazz Age aesthetics—though their time warps have touched on virtually every major trend in popular music, from 19th century classics to hair metal—the Twenties Tour became only a symbolic milestone stalled by a new, horrific pandemic called COVID. Ironically, the original Roaring ’20s was itself ushered in by a worldwide flu pandemic.
“It’s crazy how history repeats itself,” Bradlee says, “and it’s striking that people back then reported the same feelings—everybody was beyond tired of being cooped up by themselves after weathering a long pandemic. They just wanted to get out there and dance and party and see each other again. Music has served such a valuable function of inspiring us and reminding us of our shared humanity throughout history, and there’s simply no substitute for gathering together to experience such a powerful force live.”
Yet, in the midst of that, Concord Records released two Essentials compilations featuring PMJ classics, including a 1940's torch song rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep” (switching the gender roles), as well as a Cab Calloway-inspired version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" by none other than actor-comedian Wayne Brady.
The core ensemble, supported by a multi-talented band (who seems to be able to play any instrument), is often joined by surprise guests to make each concert unique and unpredictable, all shimmying and shimmering in breath-taking costumes, emceed by triple threat #PMJtour Rogelio Douglas Jr. (“Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”), performing a powerful classic soul ballad remake of the Kings Of Leon megahit, “Use Somebody.”
Some of the many revolving artists on tour includes retro songbirds Allison Young (“Where Is My Mind?”) Aubrey Logan ("Smooth Criminal"), Olivia Rodrigo (“Drivers License”), Haley Reinhart (“Don’t Speak”), Aly Ryan (“99 Luftballons”), Ashley Stroud (“Good as Hell”), and many others.
With close to 400 staple songs in their omnibus, they could be said to be the ultimate cover band, but that would be selling them far too short. They are recording artists in their own right, taking contemporary pop, rock, hip-hop, grunge, or garage revival—like Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” —and reworking them as if they came from the Roaring Twenties, or the World War II era, or Motown, or the Rat Pack, or even the Swinging Sixties, with occasional nods to Motown, bluegrass, doo-wop, klezmer, and soul.
Consequently, the party-style atmosphere that PMJ has created over the past decade has developed a large worldwide cult following, with attending fans dressed in vintage, roarin' 20's clothing for the concerts (more than I could count last night), like flapper dresses, feathered hats with veils, fedoras and old-fashioned zoot suits. Needless to say, PMJ is ecstatic of these wonderfully contingent perks, but reminds us that beneath all the glitz and glamour, the music is very much the precedence and essence of the show.
So just to clarify, if one is expecting that old timey jazz, and getting instead a stand-on-your-feet, party hearty, clappin' good time, you should know...it's much more than ragtime! Here, PMJ takes current songs and flips them on their heads, converting them into high energy, hand clapping jazzy masterpieces. But, with added bonuses, like some of the most amazing tap dancing, horn solos and banjo picking you will ever see.
For tickets to upcoming performances of Scott Bradlee's “Postmodern Jukebox: The Grand Reopening Tour,” please visit: https://www.ticketmaster.com/scott-bradlees-postmodern-jukebox-tickets/artist/1980379
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report