A 10-hour journey by car didn’t seem to have slowed down American musicians DAVINA & THE VAGABONDS when they arrived at Eden Court to make their debut in Inverness.
“We have all this pent-up van energy,”said retro red-frocked Davina with her preferred onstage accessories of petticoat and pin curls.
Oh, and a piano of course.
Luckily the piano stool lasted the pace of a packed night of blues, jazz, gospel-tinged and good-time music – all taken to a new level by the singer and her impressive band The Vagabonds.
She confessed late in the show while encouraging us to Shake That Thing in our seats, that she’d broken a piano stool once, having to sit at a 45 degree angle on the broken front two legs for three songs before it had finally given way.
It had taken the musicians a while to get the OneTouch crowd going. The first half had started with a Louis Jordan number before shrewdly moving into a run of band originals - Black Cloud, Pocket, one lamenting “nothing could go wrong” and then the teasing I Really Tried To Be Good – all the best advert for the CDs on sale in the interval. Sadly, not the one those songs had come from, but there were two others to choose from.
By then, the crowd had fallen a little bit in love with the sound of Davina & The Vagabonds, even appearing to forgive Davina murdering the classic made well-known by I’d Rather Go Blind by pulling out the song so far in the band'sinterpretation that it twanged and snapped.
Both trombone player Daniel Elkmeier and trumpeter Ben Link had showed off their considerable brass talents with solos in standards What A Day For A Daydream and the New Orleans’ Bourbon Street number that came just before we heard Ben on lead vocal for Chuck Berry’s Nadine.
As the interval loomed, Davina mischievously hinted: “Do they have booze? The more you drink, the better we sound!”
The encouragement seemed to have worked by the time we got back and the audience had loosened up, shouting out and loudly applauding the ‘competition’ in part two opener St Michael Vs The Devil between Davina’s incredibly versatile vocal abilities and trumpeter Ben’s ability to make the trumpet squeak, purr and creak like a door – just like her.
For me, that was the song of the night. But the musicians began to ease into showing off more of their range in Ain’t That A Shame, Dream A Little Dream Of Me with a stunning trombone and trumpet duet and then a powerful self-penned revenge song from Davina about a woman “who stepped on my toes” Step Out And Start Running.
All the time, we were getting more from Davina, while she showcased her boys’ talents like a proud mum. At one point she said: “I don’t usually get to look at these guys and they’re really entertaining!”
Her songwriting skills were contrasted when back to back she gave us the classic, emotionally-affecting moody blues of Blues Got A Hold of Me, inspired, she told us, by hard times. The next song – written “the same day or the day after”, couldn’t have been more upbeat about the joys of being a musician, Flow.
Then it was classics all the way as the band, including the crucial rhythm section of double bass Andrew Burns and drummer Alec Tackmann got to show off more of their abilities with solo spots as the set raced through Put A Lid On It with its Charleston feel, the out and out jazz of You Might Be Losing Your Mind, Fats Waller’s Five Foot Two, reminding Davina, she told us, of the music collection of her adopted father who had been born back in 1902.
The encore they gave us was the euphoric gospelly hallelujah sound of This Little Light Of Mine, rewarded with a heartily-deserved standing ovation.