CAMBRIDGE -- With the Brand New Heavies' record recently released in stores and
At the Middle East Downstairs Saturday, the answer was clear. A passionate and pristine performance gave the tunes new life and helped the band transcend barista banality.
As the brass section blared, the band kicked off its hour-plus set with ``Right On," off its latest album, ``Get Used to It."
``It's been a long time," Davenport remarked to the crowd at the close of the first number.
Twelve years since leaving the band, Davenport, the powerhouse singer who fronted the Heavies during their peak in the '90s, is the star of the show. Once the group was revered more for its unique instrumentation (credited with pioneering London's acid jazz scene) than for its frontwoman. Whether she's putting her pipes to work on an R&B tune (like the 1994 hit ``Dream on Dreamer") or wailing through funkier tracks (``Stay This Way"), Davenport shines.
Guitarist Simon Bartholomew , drummer (and sometimes keyboardist) Jan Kincaid , and bassist Andrew ``Love" Levy , who fill out the nucleus of the group, are equally skilled. It was the interplay between them -- and the other five musicians joining them onstage -- that put down the solid foundation for Davenport to polish.
This chanteuse, however, is no diva. She broke into a soulful rendition of ``Happy Birthday" for a fan in the front of the crowd and obliged a request to hear ``Midnight at the Oasis" even though she forgot some of the words.
While the material seems complementary to a F rappuc c ino with extra whip, Davenport's high-energy, vein-popping delivery made it something special.
Opener Van Hunt got the party started with his jazz- and soul-flavored jams. His cool was contagious (though never cocky) as the crowd bobbed and swayed through the sexy ``Seconds of Pleasure" and the rocker ``Hot Stage Lights."