By Rob Cline/Correspondent
CEDAR RAPIDS — On Friday night at the Paramount (1/25/13), the follow spot operation for the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert was erratic.
I mention this up front to assure you that my critical faculties were, in fact, in working order at the show. The outright rave that follows might otherwise give you pause.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy delivered an exhilarating performance before a mid-sized but extremely enthusiastic crowd. From first note to last, the concert, the first of the band’s 20th anniversary tour, was pretty darn close to perfect.
The nine-member outfit, a swing revival band that manages to be incredibly tight while also maintaining an air of spontaneity, performed songs from throughout their career as well as from their newest record, “Rattle Them Bones.” In their sharp suits and hats, the members of the band looked as good as they sounded, offering up a boisterous blend of style and substance.
Lead singer Scotty Morris was in fine voice and perfectly comfortable at the center of the action — quasi-conducting the band, introducing the songs, playing guitar and banjo, getting the audience involved with call and response. From the opening lines of “Minnie the Moocher” through the band’s closer, “So Long, Farewell, Goodbye,” he was clearly having a blast.
In fact, that could be said of the whole band, including the incredible rhythm section of pianist and arranger Joshua Levy, bassist and vocalist Dirk Shumaker, and percussionist Kurt Sodergren. From boogie-woogie to Dixieland, straight up swingers to klezmer, the boys in the rhythm section kept the trains running on time while also serving up tasty licks throughout the night.
Morris, Levy, Shumaker, and Sodergren would make a fine, swinging band just as a quartet, but Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s amazing five-piece horn section takes things to a whole different level.
Featuring Glen “The Kid” Marhevka and Tony Bonsera on trumpet, Alex “Crazy Legs” Henderson on trombone, and Andy Rowley and Karl Hunter on reeds, the horn section blew its way through intricate ensemble moments as well as solos both subtle and outlandish. Time and again, I found myself just shaking my head as they tore up another number. They were simply electrifying all night long.
The concert had no low points at all, but if forced to pick some high points, I’d nod to “Mr. Pinstriped Suit,” a swinger which garnered a sustained ovation in the middle of the first set; the boogie-woogie number “You Know You Wrong,” which is a personal favorite of mine; and “Five Ten Fifteen Times I Love You,” a song from the new record that gave both bassist Shumaker and pianist Levy extended moments in the (erratically operated) spotlight.
The crowd seemed equally pleased with the older and the newer material, a tribute to the band’s song selection, arrangements, and, of course, incredible delivery.
As good as this band is on record — and it is very, very good on record — the live show is something else again. Next time the band is anywhere in area, I urge you to make sure you’re there for the show.