Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Double-billed at the Warner Theater Sunday were The Outlaws and Sea Level, or Sea Level and The Outlaws, depending on which fan you happened to ask. The Outlaws opened both shows, but it was clear that they weren't opening for Sea Level - which leads one to suspect that there was some ambivalence as to which band had the premier status. That ambivalence was quickly dispelled when Sea Level took the stage.
Sea Level surfaced two years ago and, with the addition of three new band members (Randal Branblett, Davis Causey and George Weaver), is reaching for a new level of performance.
Sea Level is basically a jazz-rock band, with a measure of blues and boggie occasionally thrown in. But wind and percussion instruments dominate, giving the instrumentals, especially, a jazz treatment. The band is reaching for sophistications. At its worst, the product is a bit precious. At best, it achieves an intelligence without sacrificing energy, despite Branblett's occasional sour notes.
The Outlaws, on the other hand, sacrificed much for sheer volume. Unrelenting vocals and tedious instrumental breaks characterized what was for the most part an uninspired performance, fan hysteria notwithstanding. But there were moments when everything came together for them: early in the set on the break in "Lover Boy" and later with "There Goes Another Love Song."