Audiences at oldies shows are aluays good-natured and generous. The packed house at the Warner Theater Saturday night was no exception. If the bands and arrangements aren't quite as good, or if the voices have lost some range, so be it. Those glorious memories of youth are awfully hard to tarnish.
Neither the current version of the Coasters nor the Drifters was particularly effective in re-creating their many hits for the Atlantic label. These Coasters lacked the comic edge of the original and inappropriately, threw in some contemporary lounge-act material. The Drifters weren't smooth enough for their '60s hits like "Sand in My Shoes," and their songs notably lacked the wonderful production of those originals.
Ben E. King's performance was a different matter. Avoiding the tiresome nostalgia that oldies acts inevitably engage in, King beautifully rendered his bigges '60s hits, like "Spanish Harlem" and "Stand by Me." Every bit the dramatic balladeer of urban romance he once was, King was emotionally convincing enough to make the past irrelevant.
The showstoppers were the Skyliners. Perhaps the finest light vocal group of all time, they have become tremendous favorites in D.C. because of the sheer professionalism and vitality of their four-part singing. Topped by Jimmy Beaumont's sensitive treatment of their hit "Since I Don't Have You," the Skyliners earned the standing ovation that has become a regular part of their local appearances.