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ZZ Ward & Jaime Wyatt – World Café Live – Philadelphia (A Concert Review)

ZZ Ward & Jaime Wyatt – World Café Live – Philadelphia, PA – September 6, 2023

Despite the semi-contradiction of the term “Dirty Shine,” it sort of makes sense to the music of ZZ Ward. Dirty Shine is the name of Ward’s latest record, which is being released today, as well as the name of her new record label. The mix of grit and glamour implied in the term sort of sums up Ward’s musical style, a sweet and savory gumbo of blues, rock, hip-hop, country, funk and folk.

This show was the first stop on Ward’s “One Hell of a Night” tour promoting the new album, her first tour in a few years. Early on in the show she acknowledged that of course she had to start the trek in Philadelphia – quite possibly because she was born in the Philly suburb of Abington, PA, although her family did move when she was six and she grew up mostly on a farm in Oregon, when she wasn’t out playing gigs in her dad’s blues group. This homecoming – of sorts – led to a long and ecstatic celebration of her decades in music and her recent coming out as an indie artist after years on a major label.

The opening act at the gig was Jaime Wyatt, who similarly mixes styles like blues, rock, country and funk to get a propulsive and intriguing sound. With cat’s eye makeup and long flowing brown hair, she resembles a 1960s country music queen (specifically Bobbie Gentry) and her 2020 album Neon Cross featured guest shots by country royalty like Jesse Colter and Shooter Jennings (the widow and son of late, great outlaw country singer Waylon Jennings).

However, country is just one of the colors in Wyatt’s palate, as songs from her upcoming new disk Feel Good show her to be trying on different hats, musically. Wyatt was still hardcore enough to do a ragged cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” in her set, as well as such hard hitting new album tracks as the excellent title track and the pop-country “Love is a Place” and the title track to Neon Cross. She closed out with her terrific soulful new single “World Worth Keeping.”

Ward and her band took the stage to the sultry tones of the new song “Forget About Us,” following it up with another propulsive new tune called “Baby Don’t.” Then she dipped into her songbook with some older tunes like the blues-rock rambler “Put the Gun Down” and the surprisingly jazzy musical kaleidoscope “Til the Casket Drops.”

Old favorites like the vindictive “Break Her Heart” and the sultry “Sex and Stardust” got the pulses raised in the club, before Ward tore the place down with an acoustic version of her atmospheric new torcher “Tin Cups.”

About halfway through her almost two-hour long set, Ward explained that she grew up singing the blues and asking the audience if they wanted to hear some blues. The audience roared their approval. She then broke into a three-song set of classic covers, starting with Son House’s “Grinning in Your Face” (which Ward called a very empowering song), Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” and an early Tina Turner torch song (from the Ike and Tina days) called “3 O'Clock in the Morning Blues.”

Then Ward plunged back into originals like the surprisingly catchy breakup song “365 Days” and the plaintive and vulnerable folk lament “If I Could Be Her.” Then she pulled out some new songs to close the night out, including the hip-hop tinged current single “On One” and the first-ever live performance of Dirty Shine’s song “OverdoZZe.”

And before the crowd could overdose on the sultry vibes, Ward and crew saw the night out with a sassy version of her early tune “Blue Eyes Blind” before dancing on out into the sultry Philly night.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: September 8, 2023.

Photos by Jay S. Jacobs © 2023. All rights reserved.


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