Broken Arrow musician JD McPherson was welcomed home Wednesday night with a raucous chorus of hoots, hollers, stomps and cheers as his honest-to-God-good-old-time rock ‘n’ roll blasted the historic Cain’s Ballroom venue.
“Oklahoma I love you so much you have no idea. I love you,” he said at one point. He meant every word. “We just got off a tour of the coast, but this is the show I've been looking most forward to.”
A relative newcomer to the "majors" -- his solo debut was released in April on Rounder Records -- fans still knew every word of many of his songs. McPherson would stretch his arm out over the audience, mic in hand, and grin ear-to-ear as fans sang along with him.
The crowd spread out as far as it could as they stomped on the wood floors, vibrating the venue with every beat. They twisted and swing-danced, Lindy hopped, two-stepped and grabbed their partners and held them tight.
Fans young and old packed into the venue. Pre-teen girls crowded the front of the stage alongside senior citizens, Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, punks, teens and children. McPherson shouted out to his young former students, whom he taught for years as a teacher in Tulsa.
Chilling, pristine harmonies stole the oxygen from the room during “Signs & Signifiers.” Jazz and blues morphed with surrealistic precision. “A Gentle Awakening” shimmered like glitter at dusk, as close to a jazz standard as any rock ‘n’ roll song could aspire to be; an ode to post-apocalyptic love.
His band’s filled out into a proper five-piece touring act, including stand up-bass, keyboards, sax, drums and McPherson on guitar and vocals.
Bassist Jimmy Sutton’s mastery of the stand-up bass is a show all its own. He pulls and slaps, picks and slides. In fact, the entire band shows a maturity and mastery of the crowd-controlling power of the crescendo and decrescendo. The careful silence around notes built momentum and tension, which often exploded into frenzied exhilaration once McPherson and friends tore loose.
His set included his entire new album, including the title track, “Signs & Signifiers,” as well as “Dimes for Nickels,” “Country Boy,” “Your Love (All That I’m Missing),” “Fire Bug,” “Scratching Circles,” “North Side Gal,” “Wolf Teeth,” “B.G.M.O.S.R.N.R.,” “Scandalous,” and “I Can’t Complain.” He broke out a version of his “Abigail Blue,” from his days with Tulsa band The Starkweather Boys, as well as covers of The Premieres and Chuck Berry and more.
Between sets, guest of honor Mary Beth Babcock accepted her honor as Oklahoman of the Year from Oklahoma Today Magazine. All proceeds from the night’s show are going to her “dream come true,” a quirky roadside art project in the spirit of so many Route 66 roadside attractions. She’s building a robot outside her downtown store, Dwelling Spaces.
Tulsa-Norman punk act Broncho opened the night with full-tilt riffs, feedback, snark and pomp. The band pogo-jumped, snarled and sang in perfect three-part yawp.
Broncho is punk as it should be, its short sonic blasts are filled to exploding with a manic-feeling delirium -- and the gunpowder whiff of pop hook perfection. The set included “Try Me Out Sometime,” “I Don’t Really Want to Be Social,” “Insert Coin Here” “Record Store,” “Get Off My Reservations,” “Short Fuse” and “Pick a Fight,” among others.
The audience closed in on the stage, a roiling mass of bodies.
The band chanted, “Broncho, Broncho, your girlfriend’s lame!”