Ventura, California, Jun 1995.
Ventura, California, Jun 1995.
Review by Jon Dunmore © 11 Jul 1995.
We all take it for granted. We all think we can sing,
when we're soaping up in our tiled showers with our favorite
radio station on and no one within shoe-throwing distance.
We forget that to hone any talent to a fine degree involves
so much of that "hard work" stuff. And the two bands
I saw tonight have put in that hard work; a showcase for sheer
vocal acrobatics from Michael McDonald and the support band,
THE CHANEYS are Dave George, John DeMaria, Matt Singer (vocals
and guitars), Shawn Richkind (bass), and Ed Mongillo (drums).
The three-part harmonizing from the frontmen was simply astounding.
It is a welcome surprise to see a band of young hopefuls concentrating
so heavily on what is a focal point of a band's presentation.
God only knows how many sleepless nights and how many episodes
of CHiPs they had to endure before nailing those harmonies
Now they need to utilize those excellent voices to their best
advantage, as the songs (an even more important aspect
of a band's worth) grabbed you, but soon let you go, due to
the harmonizing reaching a point of syrupy overkill.
Though they may have played to large audiences before, it
did not show, as they stood their ground staunchly, seemingly
intimidated by the size of the venue, unable to fling themselves
metaphysically off that stage and grab the attention of more
than just the first ten rows and their pockets of mailing-list
Sound and lighting did not help their effort, as they had
to contend with the headliner act's setup. The lighting guy
displayed such a level of amateurism during the Chaney's set
that he should consider continuing his internship at Burger
King spraypainting the brown stripes on the burgers to make
them look cooked.
The Chaneys are a band which have almost everything: they
look like they wash behind their ears every night, they never
say that mighty 'F' word, and they've probably never been
asked to "turn down that damn noise" by irate neighbors.
And of course, there are those milk and honey vocals with
chocolate sprinkles. This guarantees them extensive gigging
around LA, but the band need to prove themselves as arena
animals before they can hope to move to that higher echelon
with any grace.
MICHAEL MCDONALD, on the other hand, needed to prove no points,
as he ambled onstage to wild applause and showed us how a
veteran rocker could kick butt so charmingly. His prominence
in the music scene over the last two decades, with the Doobie
Brothers and his solo career, has won him a large demographic
of fans - one of those artists you can take your kids to see
- and then argue with them on the way home as to why he's
better than Pearl Jam.
This was his second show tonight and he showed no signs of
backing down the vocal or musical assault.
With that brutish aplomb that all the elder girlies find so
disarming, McDonald paced through the hits; Ya Mo Be There,
Takin' It to the Streets, Here to Love You - you know
them all; those radio-friendly, easy listening songs that
are so powerful and musically-demanding live.
His rapturous voice ravaged the senses with its grainy, soulful
texture and Eiffel Tower range. It was a living thing, fluttering
like a dove in your hand and then soaring like an eagle when
the band took flight. During What A Fool Believes you
could actually feel the temple-throbbing intensity of those
vocals and harmonies, like some pressure valve about to explode.
McDonald also performed more recent tunes, like Matters
of the Heart from the Blink of an Eye album, his
latest. The ballad, I Can Let Go Now, with Michael
on solo piano, struck the center of the set and brought us
intimately in contact with the white-maned one. His sweetly-sobbing
playing style was best heard in these interludes. Tollak Ollestad
and Vince Denham also shared keyboard duties with Michael
during the bulk of the set.
The Ventura Theater, like many older venues, is not designed
for amplified music and it is a pity to see bands wasting
decibels on unforgiving, reflective walls - and that "wall
of keyboards" only created muddiness rather than spaciousness.
Speaking of unforgiving, Michael's band, culled from Everywhere
USA, took no prisoners. More solos from guitarist Bernie Chiaravelle
would have lent a welcome edge to the keyboard-heavy set;
Arnold Grimaldi drumming (recently of Don Henley's band),
Charlie Frichtel on bass, Lenny Castro on congas, and Vince
Denham (saxophone/keyboards) rounded out the lineup.
McDonald encored with Gaye's What's Goin' On? and Wonder's
Higher Ground, which left the audience exhausted and
satisfied. And if tonight's show did not rock you, you're
either in a coma, or you await the anticipated Doobie Brothers
Reunion Tour in July, with Steve Miller. It seems that every
major 70s and 80s band is getting the Lazarus bug these days.
So go to it, faithful fans; you've got one month to soak in
that shower, dodging shoes and brushing up on your chops,
before attending those upcoming monster shows and screaming
Added: 2006, Mar 6