Friday Night: Hippiefest At Arena Theatre
The title of this annual touring package show was something of a misnomer, as most of the acts made their FM bones in a harder-rocking '70s than during the Flower Power days of incense and peppermints. Nevertheless, it was a fun, fulfilling juxtaposition of classic rockers whom Houstonians have had sparse chance to see since the advent of CDs.
Opening the show was Felix Cavaliere's Rascals. As the main vocalist and keyboardist whose Hammond B-3 gave the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers the Young Rascals/Rascals their distinctive blue-eyed soul sound, Cavaliere is best suited to carry the band's banner. He is the lineup's only original member.
Like an favorite eccentric Italian uncle, the newsboy-capped and Hawaiian shirt-clad Cavaliere clapped, danced, and exhorted the crowd in great voice with hits like a mellowrific "Groovin'" "People Got to Be Free," and - of course - the singalong-and-organ workout "Good Lovin'."
It was unfortunate that he also spent a large chunk of stage time performing snippets of nearly a dozen overplayed Motown and soul covers. In that wasted time, he could have easily thrown in "A Girl Like You" and "A Beautiful Morning."
Rick Derringer, Hootchie Koo
Next up was Rick Derringer. The accomplished singer/guitarist/producer has a rock resume deeper than most people know. His guitar shredding and voice were in sync with cooking opener "Still Alive and Well," from his stint with Johnny Winter.
But he also wasted too much of his set talking, as in the long introduction to "Hang On Sloopy" (nonetheless a crowd favorite) from his stint with the McCoys. Curious choices came with some extended noodling on the national anthem, followed by (why?) "Real American," best known as Hulk Hogan's wrestling theme song.
Finale "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo" was inevitable, though it's a shame he bypassed what could have been a killer ending with "Frankenstein" from his Edgar Winter Group release.
The evening's surprise was (who woulda thunk?) Gary Wright. Trim and affable - and brandishing his keytar like a warrior - he shook the Arena with a double-blast of heavy tunes from his old act Spooky Tooth, "Waitin' for the Wind" and "Better By You, Better Than Me" - the latter, which Wright wrote, more famous for its Judas Priest cover version that was also the center of the "heavy metal suicide" trial of the early '90s.
Gary Wright, weaver of dreams
Closing with his two biggest solo hits - a pitch-perfect "Dream Weaver" (which he told the crowd was inspired by an Eastern philosophy book given to him by George Harrison), and a smokin' "Love Is Alive," played with abandon with Derringer as a guest, made Aftermath want to check out more of his music.