In 2004, hardest-working-man-in-indie Jack White revitalized country queen Loretta Lynn‘s career with their Grammy-winning collaboration, Van Lear Rose. Now he’s taken another legend, rockabilly godmother Wanda Jackson, under his black-and-red wing, producing her aptly titled comeback album The Party Ain’t Over and releasing it on his imprint, Third Man Records. This past Sunday, 73-year-old Wanda, Jack, and the Third Man House Band hit Los Angeles for a super-sold-out, two-night stint at the El Rey Theater, and while it was blatantly obvious that the majority of the adoring hipster crowd was there just for Jack–who elicited wild whoops and hollers every time he played a solo, or even when Wanda mentioned his name during her stage banter–the people who came for Mr. White stayed for Ms. Jackson. This great dame of rock ‘n’ roll put on quite a show.
Taking the stage in a white flapper-fringed Vegas-cowgirl jacket and an untouched-by-time (but touched by a LOT of hairspray) shellacked bouffant, the woman who was the “female Elvis” of her day looked positively radiant by Jack’s side. Onstage, she called their relationship a “mutual admiration society” and seized every opportunity onstage to cuddle–or “love up,” as she worded it–with her new patron, whom she affectionately described as being a “velvet-covered brick” in the studio. “Jack White wanted to produce my record–how flattering is that?” she gushed, beaming.
Though Wanda had to rely heavily on notes while singing–she joked that “memory is the first thing to go,” and also pointed out that she once saw Elvis Presley read lyric sheets onstage at a Las Vegas concert, quipping, “If it’s good enough for the King, it’s good enough for the Queen”–her famous kitten’s purr of a voice was as crisp and come-hithery as ever. Even when she covered Amy Winehouse‘s “You No I’m No Good”–a sultry song she thought “a 73-year-old had no business singing,” until Jack convinced her otherwise–she surprisingly pulled it off.
While Jack did come across as the star of the show–“This guy, I’m just trying to stay out of his way!” Wanda chuckled–in the end Wanda got the last laugh, electing to tear into an impromptu Elvis medley, of “Let’s Have A Party” (which was a top 40 hit for her in 1959) and “Heartbreak Hotel,” at the gig’s end. And the Third Man House Band labored to keep up with her boundless energy, indicating that the party is indeed far from over for this honky-tonk diva.