There is really nothing like going to see live music. I love getting dressed up and heading out, not knowing what exactly expect beyond a good show. So when I woke up Tuesday morning feeling sick as a dog, I panicked. I REALLY could not be sick…J.D. McPherson was playing TOMORROW NIGHT at the Balajo…I’d been planning this for months. I REFUSED to be sick. So I stayed home, took the maximum dose allowed of some flu-symptom relief meds, watched YouTube, and slept. And you know what? I woke up the next morning JUST FINE. Okay, so my throat was still a little sore (and still is…oops) but really that’s not that bad…I could teach! I could go see live music!
So at 7:30 I threw on my cutest dress and a red lip (to distract from my very tired eyes) and headed to the Balajo for their weekly soirée Rock. The venue is great…my kind of place. Old, a little run down, with nice charismatic staff and a lot of character. I heard that the designer of the Moulin Rouge did the interior, and that tons of French icons used to hang here. It felt very hip.
And the people! Man! Parisians know how to dress up. I remember some thematic clothing the last time I saw J.D. McPherson, but this time I really felt like I’d walked into a film set in the fifties…bright lipstick, denim, mom jeans, jean jackets with slicked back hair, the whole shebang. And it was great. Best dressed? An early arriver (and one of the last to leave) wearing a full white suit with waist-coat and saddle shoes. Oh yeah. I think he had some red in there too for pop.
To my great surprise and pleasure J.D. McPherson brought The Cactus Blossoms all the way from my beloved Minnesota to open for him! Brothers Jack and Page climbed onto the TINY stage for a short (but sweet) set. I remember being impressed the last time I saw them, but I must confess, they really stole my heart this time. Maybe it was that we were in Paris and it all smelled so sweetly of home, maybe they’ve upped their game, but I was thoroughly enchanted with their performance. Their vocals are astounding—offering rich warm harmonies that truly soared through the tight space—and Jack was the perfectly charming front man, catching the eyes of the girls for just long enough that they would get the full impact of his romantic lyrics. And trust me, they swooned. Much later in the evening I played translator for them with several French ladies who were taken with the tall boys from Minnesota.
And then J.D. hit the stage. I’ve raved before and imma do it again. This man is a king onstage. I generally go to excellent concerts, and McPherson’s are always some of my all time favorites. He brings an incredible energy and vitality to the stage which is raised by the incredible band behind him. Even in this unconventional* space he managed to give a thoroughly enjoyable and dynamic performance. And when you combine that with the fact that not only were they cramped but were also forced to play in two sets (with a DJ-ed dance break in the middle), had the audience literally being pushed up the steps into their faces, and could not hear each other well, you have an astounding performance.
As if that weren’t enough, McPherson (and some of his bandmates) was suffering with the flu. I only know this because his bandmates told me later. You wouldn’t have known it from watching him. Because he’s really that good. And the French noticed…calling for encore after encore.
I think what I love most about a J.D. McPherson show is that it has such amazing character. He manages to work a nostalgic sound into a truly thrilling show for all ages. I’m always struck by the diversity of his crowds and the enthusiasm. For some, he’s harkening back to a time when they were growing up, for others he’s transporting us to a time we never knew, but wish to experience. Either way it works. And in an age where many argue (myself included) that rock and roll is a thing of the past, it is thrilling to see a true rock and roll concert. We listen to him and we hear long nights of sneaking out of our bedroom windows, dancing** and drinking all night long. I never did that as a high schooler. But I think if his music had been around back then, I totally would have.
*read VERY TINY i.e. no elbow room
**real dancing mind you, not that humping business people do now