Kenny Rogers, Dottie West and the Oak Ridge Boys have all "crossed over" from country to pop music. But only the latter group brought anything with them. Rogers and West headlined last night at the Capital Centre, but the Oak Ridge Boys stole the show.
The Oak Ridge Boys have held onto their roots in white southern gospel music. Their material is slight at best and mauldin at worst. But they could transform the Nashville phone book into rousing four-part harmonies.They only sang one true gospel song, but every number had the exquisite arrangements of a backwoods chapel. The new songs simply used barmaids and fiances instead of a deity for inspiration.
The quartet's standout was John Sterben, whose logic-defying bass voice hit notes lower than the arena's speakers could handle. The group's new single, "Sail Away," began with a simple ballad vocal, then welled to a two-part harmony for the chorus. It grew to three and four- part choruses until it reached a revival- meeting climax.
West opened the show with 15 years worth of country hits sung with a strong voice but little personality. She joined Rogers in the closing set for a series of soap-opera duets as contrived as daytime TV. When West left Rogers on his own, the nerrow limits of his voice were exposed as well. But the minimal melodies of his songs seldom tseted those limits.