Four Doctors, No Scrubs

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You never would have known, based on the briskly paced, sold-out show Sunday night at Jammin' Java, that the last time 4 Out of 5 Doctors played together was at the Bayou in 1991. The four-piece pop band with three strong songwriters was one of the most successful Washington area outfits of the early 1980s, touring with Hall and Oates and opening shows for the Cars, the Clash and others, as well as accumulating a considerable local following.

Never quite as radical as new wave, the Doctors' brand of innocently cheeky power pop became marginalized. The band members eventually moved on -- most notably bassist Cal Everett, who went west and made a career playing in cover bands for high-paying corporate events.

So there he was Sunday night, at center stage 17 years later, dapper as ever in a white linen suit and skinny necktie, playing sophisticated pop bass lines while singing clever, self-knowing songs such as "Modern Man," "Waiting for a Change," "New Wave Girls" and "I Want Her" to a room full of fans who knew the lyrics.

Guitarist Jeff Severson added catchy keyboard riffs to the melodies while guitarist George Pittaway re-created feisty, fiery solos to drummer Tom Ballew's inventive rock beats. At no point did it appear the musicians were rusty, and in fact, Everett made it look downright easy.

The brightly polished songs have aged well, and it's not hard to imagine the Doctors could once again be regulars on the local music scene, even as a nostalgia act . . . but alas, the reunion was a one-off performance. The Doctors were in, and now they are out.

-- Buzz McClain

© 2008 The Washington Post Company