Music Park: Jessie’s Girl @ Howard Theatre — 10/16/15

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Jenna O’Gara leads the girls on stage for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” at the Howard on Oct. 16, 2015.

“Jessie is a band/
Yeah, I know it’s been a good 80s cover band.”

Usually closely held by denizens of New York City, Jessie’s Girl brought its brightly lit guitar solos to the Howard Theatre on Friday night to an ardent audience happy to dance their hearts out.

The seven-person ensemble rocks out with a wide variety of tunes from the ’80s, ranging from artists like Prince, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, A-ha, Loverboy, and more. Friday, they bound onto the stage with intro music borrowed from “The Final Countdown” by Europe and then proceeded to dive headlong into kinetic tributes to musicians who defined a decade.

Early in the show, the band jumps into “Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy, encouraging the crowd to hop around the room, hands raised in celebration. Singers Jenna O’Gara and Mark Rinzel trade off vocal duties for the song, pumping up the shamelessly lyrical fun of the song’s mission statement: Take a few days off to party!

Eric Presti hits the right notes during the guitar interludes of the song, appropriately showboating at the front of the stage when necessary. And keyboardist Sky is great on keytar from the back of the stage, adding sparkling keys to the verses.

Watch Jessie’s Girl perform “Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy on YouTube:

Jessie’s Girl has more tricks up its sleeve as the show progresses, given they have another male vocalist, Chris Hall, who sings some of the band’s best numbers — generally those that require some crooning or a higher register. He plays center stage, for example, during a rousing rendition of “Take on Me” by A-ha, which is ready embraced by dancers at the Howard. Chris throws himself into the song, and he has a lot of fun with its flourishes.

Jessie’s Girl hits a definite highlight of the show soon after when Jenna takes lead vocals solo for a performance of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper. During a song when the men handled vocal duties, Jenna jumps offstage for the first of several costume changes to return in time decked out in a colorful display, complete with wig, worthy of the artist she’s emulating.

Not content to merely sing the song but rather aiming to capture its spirit (particularly within its famous video), Jenna invites the ladies of the audience to parade to the stage, where they dance and sing carefree like it’s 1983. It’s a delightful homage to a hit song that has endured the test of time, and the band’s success at using it to cleverly engage the audience adds a layer of stage magic to the whole affair.

Don’t get me wrong; Jessie’s Girl has a number of talented players, but the high-spirited Jenna is a superstar, turning ears and heads with panache. She impresses every time on lead vocals with selections like “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston.

Watch Jessie’s Girl perform “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston on YouTube:

Hey, if you just wanna dance with somebody, you could do a lot worse than to toss on your finest ‘80s fashions and boogie on down to see Jessie’s Girl. If you’re in New York City, they perform a regular show every Saturday at Le Poisson Rouge (the Bleecker Street music venue that I often call Manhattan’s answer to the Black Cat in DC).

They also have a huge show at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Nov. 6, when they will appear with a number of bona fide ‘80s stars to perform the signature tunes of those artists. That lineup includes Howard Jones, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, A Flock of Seagulls, and others in a show hosted by MTV VJ Martha Quinn.

You know you’ll wish that you’d seen Jessie’s Girl! (Where can you find a tribute like that?)

(Many many apologies to Rick Springfield.)

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