Doña Oxford makes people move. Fresh back from playing onstage with Albert Lee in London and in the studio backing a new album with Van Morrison, Doña Oxford brought her high octane R&B and boogie woogie soul train to Brennan’s in Marina del Rey to celebrate her birthday (39, of course). And Brennan’s may never recover.
She came on at 9:30 pm and played three sets, and at one point, even the sports fans at the bar gave up following ESP and joined in the locomotion. There were even dancing folks bopping in the tiny space in front of the restrooms doors. It was a hoot.
Doña brought the full band for her birthday present to the audience: the amazing British transplant Colin Ryan on electric guitar, Bill Brennenstuhl keeping it moving on the drums, Fred Johnson playing bass and adding a few hallelujahs, and the never-stop-dancing backup vocal singers Robin Daléa and Jamila Ford. Doña conducted them flawlessly from her center spot in front of the big Hammond keyboard, flashing hand signals while her fingers kept up the blur on the keys. A joy to watch and listen to.
She opened with Dusty Springfield’s “Won’t be Long”, moved on to the Hall & Oats cover “I can’t go for that”, and then treated us to staples from her albums like “Together”, “He’s My Baby”, Shame on Me”, and “Tell It Like It Is”. As her fans expected, she wrapped up the first set with her famous 10-minute “Boogie Woogie” song, complete with one-handed playing and elevating the keyboard on the finale. Every song was delivered with Doña’s trademark 120% and the rest of the band was at the top of its game, especially Ryan, whose solo guitar riffs could have been a concert on their own.
Not content to stay in her boogie woogie comfort zone, Doña surprised us with Pharrell Williams’s “Happy, Wilson Picket’s ‘Something you got ‘ and – wait for it – Brittney Spears’ s “Hit Me Baby One More Time”. The crowd loved it.
Doña Oxford is one of LA’s underappreciated assets. Every show she performs is a blowout with the audience standing and whistling and demanding more. Her albums, Soul Quest and Doña Oxford deliver the goods and then some. When she tours the UK, stars like Van Morrison ask her to be part of their recording sessions. She brings the level of talent and energy to the stage you find in a Trombone Shorty or, in their day, The Isley Brothers. If she keeps up the song writing, the recording and especially the live concerts, she could be one of the next LA breakout bands.
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