Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Playing before a crowd interested enough to brave a pre-show down-pour, and stocked with enough technological hardware to make "Star Wars" envious, Happy the Man displayed imagination but little feeling in the group's concert Tuesday night at Carter Barron.
Sponsored by radio station DC 101, the free show filled three quarters of the amphitheater's damp chairs. Many in the audience seemed familiar with the five member band's aloof brand of electronic rock, probably because Happy the Man is from Reston, and has appeared many times locally in the past year. Tuesday night's performance was the band's biggest as a headliner and closely followed the release of a debut album.
Though their music fluctuates between the mechanics of German groups like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream and the pop influences of Yes and Genesis, Happy the Man is most closely modeled after Soft Machine, an early British jazz-rock aggregation.
Like Soft Machine, Happy the Man makes maximum use of woodwinds in tandem with synthesizers. Keyboardist Kit Watkins and reed man Frank Wyatt form the foundation of the band's encompassing sound, evidence din compositions lime "Portraits of a Waterfall" and "Knee-bitten Nymph in Limbo," Guitarist Stanley Whitaker is lightning quick but his occasional vocals are nondescript. Bassist Rick Kennell and drummer Mike Beck lend ample support but are often more flash than substance.
Happy the Man suffers from songs that run longer than necessary and a total lack of emotional involvement. Still those who didn't walk out for want of "rock and roll" heard a controlled and deft, if sterile display of music.