JD McPherson dialed up retro sounds at First Avenue/ Photo by Samantha Franklin

As with Dawes and Brandi Carlile, the Twin Cities are the biggest market for JD McPherson. The Oklahoman thanked 89.3 the Current for making that happen when he performed Saturday in front of a full house at First Avenue.

McPherson should also credit the live shows he’s done in the Twin Cities at the State Fair and First Avenue. He’s built a well-deserved following. And he slayed his followers again on Saturday, sounding more vibrant, dynamic and louder than ever.

With his punk-rock intensity and intoxicating mix of vintage-sounding rock, rockabilly, R&B and blues, McPherson recalled the 1980s heyday of the Blasters, the thrilling retro L.A. band that launched Dave Alvin. But there was no old R&B veteran in this band like the Blasters had with saxophonist Lee Allen, though McPherson’s bassist/producer Jimmy Sutton, 47, is a bit older than his bandmates.

For 85 minutes, this quintet played with punk-like frenzy. Keyboardist Ray Jacildo’s solos should be called “hammer time” because of the way he pounded on the piano like Jerry Lee Lewis on steroids. Doug Corcoran provided the honking saxophone and Sutton the right bass line to propel every number.

There were covers of Chuck Berry (“Beautiful Delilah”) and the Pixies (“Head On”), a reggae-tinged treatment of the hymn “Oil in My Lamp” and pretty much everything from McPherson’s retro-cool 2012 album “Signs & Signifiers.”
Moments echoed the Stray Cats (Brian Setzer was in the house, in the owner’s box), Jackie Wilson and other old-school sounds. Fittingly, McPherson sang of party lines (the telephone kind), jukebox soul and Caddies with ragtop roofs.

McPherson, an accomplished guitarist, has become an impassioned blues-rock shouter and growler, with just enough soulful nuance to pull off ballads. But it was the forcefulness of his soul shouting that elevated the radio-favorite “North Side Gal” into one of the night’s many highlights. Vocally, he can go from 10 to 60 mph in one breath. And he likes to travel with speed and style when he rocks his favorite town. 

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