Friday, November 12, 2004

Doobie Brothers et al/Hammerstein Ballroom/Nov. 10, 2004

Reviewed by Mac Montandon

Not since the Big Chill soundtrack hit record racks in 1983 has so much baby-boomer rock been seen in one place.

The New York City-based nonprofit Boomer Coalition wheeled out some of pop music's creakiest heavy hitters on Wednesday night at the Hammerstein Ballroom to raise awareness and funds for their fight against cardiovascular disease, or CVD. At times the R&B and blues-leaning lineup---anchored by the Doobie Brothers,Los Lobos, the Taj Mahal Trio, and Patti LaBelle---slung enough overcooked noodle to satisfy an Olive Garden franchisee. But the forgiving and nearly filled house happily stuck with the if-it-feels-good-do-it vibe of the night.

From very early on it was clear the late-arriving crowd came out more for the music than the message. Before the show, lobby lingerers buzzed, as two computers set up for new member registration sat lonely and unused. The multi-culti crowd, thick with older guys stroking graying goatees and younger, GAP-clad latte-lovers, seemed primed for pleasure. LaBelle kicked things off with a short and bizarre set. Before begging off, saying she was "sick as a frog," the 60-year-old soulstress dolloped a taste of her soaring, molasses sweet jazz riffs on an adoring audience. Her frothy act dissolved soon after she invited five men from the crowd to dance with her onstage and sing along to "Voulez Vous Couchez Avec Moi, Ce Soir?" A rail-thin exhibitionist named Earl briefly stole the show with emphatic, comically twitchy dance moves.

Taj Mahal was up next and his heavy, straight ahead blues rescued the night from its initial Gong Show flavor. Los Lobos provided the evening's biggest burst of raw power, cranking out Latino-tinted garage rock. The seven-piece outfit enhanced their crackly, distorted sound with a three-guitar front. Taj Mahal joined them for a rumbling version of the blues standard, "Sweet Home Chicago," that had the crowd shaking in their 501s. Perhaps the shows most apropos moment came during Taj Mahal's set, when a waft of marijuana smoke blanketed the balcony. If nothing else, this proved that the Boomer Coalition was on to something when they ran ads in the New Yorker magazine that read: "If you smoked pot at Monterey in '67, you might have CVD."

That and a ticket to a mid-week dinosaur rock show.