Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
People want to hear hits, and that's exactly what Leo Sayer delivered Tuesday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion, where he appeared in concert with would-be pop diva Melissa Manchester. Unfortunately though, that meant some of Sayer's best songs were either passed over or made into mockeries of themselves.
When Sayer first appeared on the pop scene about four years ago, he was praised more for his song writing than his performing. With a crucial boost from Roger Daltrey of The Who, songs such as "Giving It All Away," the lovely ballad that opened Tuesday night's set, quickly found an appreciative audience and won Sayer recognition as a sensitive and sensible craftsman.
How ironic, then, that in his string of three consecutive No. 1 singles, Sayer has relied on other people's styles and tunes - forcing him far from his roots. The cheap faddishness of "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing," a concession to the current disco boom and the facile sentimentality of Carol Bayer Sager's "When I Need You" clearly indicates artistic regression rather than growth.
Even some of the songs from Sayer's most fertile period have suffered from this tendency to try to be all things to all people. "One Man Band" used to be a touching, melancholy story of an unappreciated street musician; now it's done as a glittery piece of razzle-dazzle that's all appearance and virtually no substance.
Some of that may be due to Sayer's band, an all-star ensemble made up mostly of Los Angeles session men. They play all the right notes, but with very little feeling. It makes for a slick, easily digestible show - something like a more modest version of an evening with Elton John.