Davina & the Vagabonds – Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival, Gahanna, OH, 6/21/15
Davina & the Vagabonds have released two stellar studio albums – 2011’s Black Cloud and 2014’s Sunshine, both of which feature New Orleans’ style jazz & blues played with reckless abandon. But, the question is – can they deliver the goods live?
The answer is a resounding YES – and then some.
The Vagabonds featured trombone, trumpet, stand-up bass and drums, led by Davina Sowers on piano and vocals. She sat front and center, her white skin and flowered dress seemed at odds with the sweltering Ohio afternoon heat (Sowers is from Minnesota, after all). The band certainly packed a lot into their 90-minute set. A nice mix of originals with clever cover tunes kept things moving along. A rollicking version of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream” was a nice touch, while her own “Disappears” showed off a keen melodic sense, and “Start Runnin’” was pure sass.
A pair of songs were the high points of the show and also showed off the band’s diversity: First, Sowers did a stunning take on Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” where she poured a tremendous amount of passion into an already emotional song. Then, there was “St. Michael vs. the Devil,” her own composition, which won a songwriting contest several years ago, and is an epic tale of good vs. evil. That track featured some great interplay between the vocals and horns, and should be available on their forthcoming live record.
While Davina & the Vagabonds have put out some great records, they’re even better in a live setting, where the band can display their ferocious chops, and Davina can let loose her amazing voice. They were great in this afternoon festival setting; I bet they’re even better in a late-night club. —Tony Peters