Concert Review: Cracker / Wanda Jackson at 9th Street Summerfest in Columbia, MO 7/30/14

Cracker Columbia Poster

You always have to be prepared when going into a concert. Whether that means putting on sunscreen or bringing some extra cash because a band has great merch for sale, it helps to do your homework. That is how I knew the Cracker show in Columbia, Missouri for 9th Street Summerfest wasn’t going to be the greatest for a die-hard fan like myself. Tip-off #1 was that another big name was also on the bill, Wanda Jackson. While it is great to catch the queen of rockabilly live, it meant that Cracker’s set might be shortened a bit. The second tip-off was that the show was outside and in the city, meaning there would be a strict curfew for the bands. Other indications were that it was a festival and it was free; so what did all this mean? I would get to see the Cracker “greatest hits set.” While you do want to see a band do their best songs, if you are a die-hard fan that has seen them a double digit amount of times you want to see some deeper album tracks. It was still the first time I’ve seen my favorite band in four years so it would be enjoyable almost no matter what.

Local act Jenny Teator and the Fevers would be the very first to grace the stage with their brand of advanced red dirt country twang. They would even bring out a saxophone player to make the music more distinct but also create a mixture that didn’t quite fit at times. Wanda Jackson would be next, going on stage well before the sun hid behind the horizon for the night. At 76 years old she is hardly the rebel that opened for Elvis Presley in the 1950s anymore but she is a legend any way you cut it. Her five piece band was shockingly young with none of them likely playing an instrument before 1980 when Jackson already had three decades of music under her belt. The band was tight playing the standard music to back Jackson whether it be country, gospel or rockabilly. She would hit many of what you expect on her setlist as she held her cordless mic and narrated her career in-between songs. She would play the rocking “Riot in Cell Block #9” and the groovy “Rock You Baby” and get a little bit weird on “Fujiyama Mama.” She paid tribute to Elvis by stomping out “Heartbreak Hotel” and even covered Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.”

76 year old Wanda Jackson climbs on stage and performs in Columbia, Missouri on 7/30/14 for her 60th year of playing music.

76 year old Wanda Jackson climbs on stage and performs in Columbia, Missouri on 7/30/14 for her 60th year of playing music.

The odd disconnect between her and her band wasn’t distracting for the most part but still was noticeable. She would shake and shimmy pretty well while singing for someone who had to have help mounting the stairs to get to the stage. She would even throw water on the first row of the crowd showing she isn’t quite completely tamed but also had a couple “senior moments” as she called them, when she forgot lyrics, showing her age a bit as well. She would exit with a stompy version of “Mean Mean Man” and fittingly close out her set with “Let’s Have A Party.”

Cracker would take the stage next after a lengthy bout fine-tuning the sound, possibly because they used the amps and drum kit of Jackson’s band. With the standard David Lowery and Johnny Hickman combo leading the way and bassist Sal Maida and drummer Michael Urbano filling in for regular beat man Frank Funaro. Urbano’s energy was actually a bit of a welcome change from Funaro’s “asleep at the kit” demeanor. They would start off with two of the more exciting and exotic songs of their setlist, “The World Is Mine” and the classic “Been Around The World.” They would quickly start hitting the most successful songs of their 20 plus year career by doing “Low” “Teen Angst” and “Get Off This” just as I had expected them to. Hearing guitarist Johnny Hickman’s one vocal contribution, “Another Song About The Rain” was great to hear and qualified as a deep cut as well, normally his song is “Lonesome Johnny Blues” that makes the short set.

Cracker plays the free 9th Street Summerfest outside of The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri on 7/30/14.

Cracker plays the free 9th Street Summerfest outside of The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri on 7/30/14.

The one really exciting moment from the show would come about halfway through when they would take on a bass driven new song that is presumably called “Reaction” and is also presumably going to be on the new Cracker double album hopefully due soon. After a particularly jammy and playful version of the honky tonk song “Sweet Potato” and the last off their checklist of hits “Get Off This” they would take a short break and return to stage with “One Fine Day” the epic song hidden deep on the 2002 album Forever. They would take a quick bow and head off stage with the crowd roaring loud enough to warrant more songs and it was evident that the band was willing to oblige but it was that dreaded outdoor concert/festival curfew that had went into effect so no more songs would be played. The setlist was short and full of songs I had seen 8 to 10 times each but it was still a welcome sound to my ears to hear Hickman’s guitar and Lowery’s rasp coming out of a PA again.

Cracker setlist from 9th Street Summerfest in Columbia, Missouri on 7/30/14:

  • The World Is Mine
  • Been Around The World
  • Gimme One More Chance
  • I See The Light
  • Mr. Wrong
  • Low
  • Movie Star
  • Teen Angst
  • Reaction
  • Another Song About The Rain
  • Happy Birthday To Me
  • Sweet Potato
  • Euro-Trash Girl
  • Get Off This
  • encore break
  • One Fine Day
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