Post Modern Jukebox at the Auckland Town Hall, October 12th: Great show, not great sound

(With thanks to Chris Zwaagdyk for the concert photos)

You have to say two things in the same breath about this show from Post Modern Jukebox (PMJ): first, that it was a barnstorming concert, full of energy, humour, and good old fashioned entertainment; and second, that the sound mix, or the acoustics, just were not good enough. And that’s a big shame. It’s not that the audience didn’t enjoy the show. They clearly did. The performers are infectiously likeable. It says something for their skill that even without being able to make out many of the lyrics, we all lapped it up.

Let’s get the sound issue out of the way first. I was fortunate enough to have a seat near the front of stage. It was a great position from which to see the band do their stuff. But it was very hard to make out what lyrics the singers were singing. I checked with two or three other concert goers near me and they had the same concern. I checked with others at the intermission who were sitting further back, and I got a similar message. In fact at the end of the night’s very first song, one audience member sitting in the balcony, right near the stage, called out that they couldn’t hear a thing. The band thanked them for their feedback, and perhaps that did the trick, as in the second half of the show the sound quality improved.

But what’s disappointing here is that this may be a case of history repeating itself. An audience member sitting next to me showed me a post from someone at PMJ’s show at the Town Hall last year, who was sitting in almost the same position, complaining about the sound.

Having said all that, most if not all the audience seemed to put any concern over sound to one side and still have a whale of a time. And why not? PMJ are immenselyentertaining. They present a show that takes songs from other artists and re-interprets them in a way that combines an old fashioned jazz/vaudeville 1920’s feel, with plenty of inventiveness and fun. MC Casey Abrams introduces the songs and the singers who take lead vocals ( Aubrey Logan, Hannah Gill, Robyn Adele Anderson and David Simmons Jr), sings lead vocal himself a few times, and with the regular infusion of tap dancing courtesy of Demi Remick, you have a variety style show that hardly gives you a chance to take a breath.

In terms of sheer vocal talent Aubrey Logan is the standout. A big voice, a big range, and where else do you see a lead singer do a cartwheel, pick up a trombone and launch into a solo on that instrument? David Simmons Jr’s vocal on Don’t Let Me Down was also terrific. For my money though the performance of the night belonged to Casey Abrams and his take on Creep. He started slow, drew the audience in, and had us in the palm of his hand throughout. PMJ pull of a neat trick of being a tight group who at times give you the feel of flying by the seat of their pants. They jump of the stage to high five a little girl who’s moving to the music; climb up into the balcony to stand alongside concert goers looking down from above; and generally give you a sense that the show you are watching might not be the same as the one they give the next night.

PMJ also boast an impressive band: Adam Kubota is on bass, Tom Jorgenson on drums, Jeremy Viner on sax and woodwinds, PJ Floyd on trombone and Reggie Berg on piano. They produce a big sound when they need to and a soft one when required. They’re sassy and funny , and when you put all the elements of PMJ together the show has an all round feel good quality to it. You’d have had to have got out of the wrong side of the bed and sprained several joints not to enjoy the night.

Post Modern Jukebox have several more shows in New Zealand this month and I strongly recommend an evening spending an evening with them. If they get the sound mix right, it’ll be a fantastic night out.

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