Michael McDonald March 31, 2006
Michael McDonald: the Classic Voice in Fine Form at Cerritos
By Glen Creason
The Performing Arts Center has certainly set the bar high this season and the quality continued Friday evening with the full-bodied deliciousness of Michael McDonald’s R&B feast for the ears. The concert was as long and varied as the career of the man who has sung with artists are disparate as the Doobie Brothers, James Ingram, Steely Dan, Kenny Loggins and the great Patti LaBelle. His are some of the truly distinctive sets of pipes in music and on this night he was in fine form; reaching all the high notes and giving goose bumps on the ballads. The test of any great singer is if they make a song better and McDonald chose only the best then let them glow in his talented light. His style is demanding on the instrument but can add deep emotion to the lyric. .
The opening song “Peace” was the perfect curtain raiser for a crowd that came to dance in their chairs. Instead of a break in the up tempo stuff the song stood on its own, giving contemplation before the place began to rock. Rock it did, starting with “It Keeps You Running” just one of several Doobie winners that charged the packed hall with electricity. The show continued as a textured sampler of his platinum discs, R&B diamonds next to heart-throbbing ballads which McDonald sang like they were written for him. “Sweet Freedom,” “You Belong to Me,” “Minute by Minute,” and Taking It to the Streets” caused delirium in this mature crowd, some of whom stood and shook their tail feathers a bit. Yet, the R&B was particularly tasty including the Stevie Wonder beauty “All in Love Is Fair,” Smoky Robinson’s signature “Second That Emotion,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” probably the most danceable tune ever written and a rather magnificent encore of “What’s Going On” that was pure goose bumps.
Of course, McDonald was not alone and surrounded himself with an excellent band lead by lead guitarist Bernie Chiaravalle, powerful saxophonist Vince Denham and singer/drummer Yvette “BabyGirl” Preyer. The band kept the mix amped high so McDonald’s voice was riding on a wave of solid rhythm. Preyer’s duet in the encore of “On My Own” was certainly one of the more remarkable musical feats seen here. Throughout, the concert thier choices were intelligent and also passionately executed.
The show was opened by an unannounced David Pack who was placed at that disadvantage, standing alone at the mike in front of several thousand fans who came to see Michael McDonald. Not to worry, as the former lead singer for Ambrosia quickly won over the entire hall, performing the hits of his yesteryear/today and playing a very strong guitar. His elastic voice and nimble fingers worked magic on “World Leave Me Alone,” “Holding On to Yesterday,” “You’re the Only Woman,” “How Much,” “Secret of Moving On,” a sensational “Pinball Wizard” and the crowd wowing “Biggest Part.” Pack came out as “who?” but left as “oh he’s the guy who wrote all those hit songs.” In a rare event the audience begged for an encore but Pack humbly demurred in deference to the headliner.