"I don't know how much longer I can keep waiting," were the first words Nick Tolford belted out, hunched over his Rhodes piano, during his set in the early hours of Monday morning at Carabar.

"I don't know how much longer I can keep waiting," were the first words Nick Tolford belted out, hunched over his Rhodes piano, during his set in the early hours of Monday morning at Carabar.

After listening to the tuneless monstrosities that passed for opening acts, I agreed with the singer's husky baritone: "I don't know how much longer until I walk away."

Thank God I stuck around for Tolford, though, because he and his band ripped the place apart.

When the amicable Carabar soundman left his post as bassist in ace prog-punk outfit The Slide Machine last year to pursue his solo project, now known as Nick Tolford and Company, I scratched my head. Why bolt from one of the best bands in town?

Even after I heard rumors that Tolford's '60s soul revival was something special, I remained skeptical.

Consider me converted. From the moment I laid ears on Tolford's demos last month, I've been desperate to check him out in concert, and this week's show didn't disappoint.

On stage, the guy somehow exuded swagger without compromising the approachability that defines him off stage. The friendly demeanor welcomed the audience into his songs, expertly crafted old-school rock and soul cuts that transported me to a time long before I was born.

Tolford could slay by himself; his stirring vocals are the most pleasant surprise I've stumbled upon in local music this year. But for everything he brings to the table as a solo performer, his band upped the ante significantly.

Michael O'Shaughnessy, who usually keeps time for the mind-melting excretions of El Jesus de Magico, proved himself just as capable in a more traditional context. Brian Travis and Ricky Thompson filled in the nooks and crannies proficiently on bass and rhythm guitar, respectively.

The real showstopper, though, was lead guitarist Julian Dassai. Never having heard Dassai's band Wartime Ladies, I wasn't prepared for his arsenal of eye-widening guitar tricks. Using the tremolo bar to maximum effect, he raised Tolford's tunes to woozy new heights.

Tolford played all the instruments on his demos, but I can't wait to hear some proper recordings with Dassai in the room.

These guys haven't yet played together long enough to sound completely in sync. And background singers, which are supposedly coming soon, would make this band unstoppable. But these are minor complaints about a show that left me very excited about somebody doing throwback music right - no ironic wink, just unbounded joy.

For more local music news, click to the Sensory Overload blog at ColumbusAlive.com