Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
A sax player in a police uniform, a backup singer in drag, two women dressed as unicorns in bunny outfits, a guitarist in a blond afro wig, a course chorus of kazoos and Darryl Rhoades himself in an orange jacket and green hat probably sound pretty funny.
Funniess, or blunt satire, was the more than obvious point of Darryl Rhoades and his Hahavishnu Orchestra, who opened the first of two nights at the Cellar Door Wednesday with the Allstars, a blues outfit whom Charlottesville, Va.
The best joke of the night, however, was that such sophomoric humor demanded 10 musicians an that all of them fit on the Cellar Door stage. The targets of the Hahavishnu musical satire - Greg Allman, Barry Manilow, Doo Wop, Heavy Metal Rock, Holiday Inn Muzak, and the Shangra Las - were as obvious as bigotry on a Norman Lear sit-com.
The song titles themselves - "Leader of the Smack," "Shaft on Welfare," "This Song Is Boring" and "Burgers from Heaven" - were more comical than the theatrics and music.
The eclectic musical approach demanded by all this satire pushed a mediocre band well beyond its limits. If the goal was sophisticated parody, the result was bad National Lampoon meets Mel Brooks.
The Hahavishnu Orchestra achieved neither the radical humor of the Fugs, the erodite and comic musical intelligence of the Mothers of Invention nor the heavy metal theater of the absurd of the Tubes. Rock and satire have never mixed well, mostly because rock's real humor is intrinsic and its passion naive.
The Hahavishnu's self-conscious approach possessed neither of these traits.