Sunday, January 31, 2010
Concert review: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at Eisemann Center (January 30)
Billed as a tribute to Cab Calloway, it was more of a celebration of the career of our country's best working Big Band -- and that's just fine by me.
RICHARDSON Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's latest disc (or LP as they insisted on calling it, in full retro character) is a tribute to Cab Calloway, and the show they brought to the Eisemann Center was similarly billed as "100 Years of Cab Calloway - featuring Big Bad Voodoo Daddy." So given the sit-down venue, I expected a subdued version of the band, perhaps mixed with an lecture-y academic appreciation of Calloway's life and career.
What I and the rest of the sold-out house got, however, was a quintuple-horned blast of retro big-band swing, and a run through all of BBVD's greatest hits, with a smattering of Calloway thrown in. That seemed to suit all just fine, as the up-tempo, two-and-a-half hour show brought multiple standing ovations (including enthusiastic applause from Richardson Mayor Gary Slagel, who was seated next to me).
BBVD has been at it for 17 years now, but they still have the same energy you remember from their stint as the house band in the movie Swingers. The horn section still has the same frenetic over-layering, but everyone has really honed their chops over the years. I'd name a standout player, but from keys, to bass, to drums to every one of the horns -- everyone is top notch and looks to be having so much fun that they couldn't be faking it.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: “Reeferman”
Bandleader and lead vocalist Scotty Morris has really come along over the years too. If I've ever had a complaint about BBVD, it's been that I found his vocals flat and generic. But he's now a chameleon: one minute channeling Louis Armstrong; the next, Calloway; and in smoother moments showing shades of my favorite jazz singer, Georgie Fame. All this while performing as the quintessential bandleader, taking turns conducting the band and hyping the crowd.
While the night was ostensibly about Calloway, and included a couple sections dedicated to him, the songs that best showcased BBVD were those pulling from their New Orleans-themed Save My Soul. On tunes like "Zig Zaggity Woop Woop" and "Simple Song," the whole band was able to stretch out, take some soulful solos, and generally, well, swing. The best Calloway number was the title track from current release How Big Can You Get, one that would have had any self-respecting member of our country's financial braintrust squirming in their seats.
As it's been since their early days, BBVD is aggressively retro from their sound to their shoes. But they manage to be so in a way that still feels fresh -- coming off as a vibrant band rather than a nostalgia act, something they could easily slip into given both their age and their genre. Maybe that's why a seemingly hackneyed move like slipping a "Sweet Home Alabama" riff into their final number came across as revolutionary, bringing the house down.
- Men of Note chorus simulates a live radio broadcast in new production Remember Radio
- Coffee-monger The Pearl Cup opens third location in Richardson
- Interurban Railway Museum links North Texas' past and future
- City House children's shelter in Plano unveils new bike path
- Southfork Hotel hosts murder mystery play parodying Dallas reboot