JD McPherson at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo, MI

JD McPherson @ Bell's Cafe, Kalamazoo | Photo by Jena McShane

Fresh from touring with legends Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, JD McPherson brought his retro brand of roots rock to Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo.

For those who did not have the good fortune to see the former Led Zeppelin frontman Plant and bluegrass royalty Krauss this summer, catching McPherson and his band on their own had to be an entirely acceptable, if not better, alternative. 

McPherson was both the opener and the lead guitar for the Plant and Krauss tour. And while it’s hard to tell whether he rocked so hard at Bell’s that his shoes came off at some point during the show, or that he was just rocking out in his socks the whole time, it was clear that he gave his all to ensure that the future of old school rock and roll remains alive and well. 

Kicking off the night in Kalamazoo was the little-known but hopefully up-and-coming Los Angeles-based Japanese composer Yohei. With just a guitar and a folksy voice, he immediately won the crowd over by singing slightly humorous yet heartfelt songs about his ordinary real-life experiences. His song “Bleach,” for example, was inspired by a girl who once stayed over and asked if he had ever used bleach in his dirty bathroom. He followed that up with a catchy tune about his former dog Chester, proclaiming a loving sentiment that every pet owner could relate to: “What have you done to me… who’s my little Chester.” 

Yohei capped off his entertaining performance with a rendition of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” but his night wasn’t done. About 15 minutes later, JD and his crew took the stage with Yohei supporting on keys.

JD McPherson and his band opened their show with a couple of fast-paced rockabilly tunes that quickly got the crowd moving. Starting with “Fire Bug” from his 2011 debut album Signs and Signifiers, and “Bossy” from the follow up album Let the Good Times Roll, JD did indeed keep the good times rolling.

In between his original old-school rock and roll tracks, McPherson unveiled a few songs from his upcoming cover song album. Fans were given a preview of his versions of “Lust for Life,” originally performed by Iggy Pop, The Pixies’ “Manta Ray” and “White Light/White Heat” from The Velvet Underground. McPherson’s takes on these relatively deep-cut tracks struck a perfect balance between the “proper rock and roll” that he aims to deliver while honoring the giants whose backs on which he stands.

To close out the night, JD and crew used their encore to showcase a fan-favorite, “North Side Gal.” The track had a few couples in the crowd making room for swing triple steps and twirls and left everyone heading home with one of his catchier tunes in their heads. 

McPherson only has a few more dates on his calendar so far this year. However, if past experience is anything to go by, keep an eye out for dates this fall and winter when he is known for showing off his original rockabilly Christmas album, Socks.

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About Jena McShane 20 Articles
Jena McShane is a Lansing, MI based photographer specializing in candid portraiture, live music, and stormy landscapes.