Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 11 June 2022
On the opening weekend of the Cabaret Festival, Davina and the Vagabonds wowed audiences with their American songbook jazz-instilled tunes – those lucky enough to have seen it won’t be forgetting it anytime soon.
From the divine seat of the grand piano in the equally divine Famous Spiegeltent, Davina Lozier says she doesn’t really know what cabaret is. ‘We’re just going to do what we do,’ then she and the Vagabonds launch into some Louis Jordan. Her voice is deep and husky and her broad Minnesotan accent celebrates an America of the swing-time era. Her performance as both singer and pianist is commandingly spirited. She’s backed by a four-piece band: the very prevalent trombonist Matt Hanzelka, the Olympic gymnast of a trumpeter Zack Lozier, the double-threat drummer Connor Hammergren, who sings a couple songs with a Sachmo quality to his voice, and Andrew Foreman – never has an upright base player, to my knowledge, smiled so much. And why wouldn’t he? The band is having a blast playing with a 1930s and 40s New Orleans and Harlem jazz-infused verve; the audience is big-eyed and grinning, thrilled with the quality of their cabaret pick, and the energetic vibe in the room is a shared thing.
In between vigorous covers of more Louis Jordan, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James and Los Lobos, Davina belts out strong, sassy originals more often than not about the devil, and they’re exceptional. While paying homage to their jazz predecessors, their songs make the old seem new. Davina’s constantly funny in her introductions to each tune, a natural storyteller who makes her audience feel like they’re becoming her friends. All of this is cabaret! Each and every hopping minute.
Reviewed by Heather Taylor-Johnson
Rating out of 5: 5
Photo Credit: Claudio Raschella