One of the most recognizable voices of the entire Rock n’ Roll era is the voice of Michael McDonald. The man has sung on a zillion records for others, but the first place one might remember him from is the Steely Dan records he sang on. Then his recognition factor exploded when he joined the Doobie Brothers and went on to win five Grammy awards. His longevity is remarkable because even in the last decade or so he has had major success doing covers of Motown classics by Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and others.
The full repertoire was on display at the Lexington Opera House a few weeks back when the Troubadour series brought not merely Michael, but his whole regular traveling band to town to acoustically the best venue in town. It is however a quite small venue, so the tickets were pricey, to say the least. And typical of these Troubadour shows, they don’t go long. In fact Michael first stopped after only an hour’s playing, but they came back for a thirty minute series of encores, thankfully. The band was both funky and tight, with excellent work on the sax, the Hammond B3, the guitar, as well as Michael’s own keyboard playing. Michael has not lost any of his vocal range, and that distinctive soulful smoky tone is still there and still unmistakable.
The show was certainly a crowd pleaser as he worked through all his biggest Doobie Brothers hits, various of his solo hits (such as Sweet Freedom and Ya Mo Be There), and some very nice renditions of Motown classics (Marvin Gaye’s Heard it on the Grapevine, Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and You Ain’t Done Nothing’), and even one Ray Charles classic— ‘You Don’t Know Me’. It was a joy to see such talented musicians all playing their instruments so very well, and in a perfect ensemble as well, once more proving that real musicians, playing real instruments and singing their own songs with passion and verve is so much better than simply pre-programmed Synths or rhythmic talking over sampled music by someone else. This music may not be timeless, but as far as I’m concerned, it never gets old and still brings a lot of joy to lots of folks young and old.