When guitarist Jeff Baxter left Steely Dan to join the Doobie Brothers, it was as if George Harrison had quit the Beatles to join the Dave Clark Five. Like the Dave Clark Five, the Doobies turned out thoroughly enjoyable singles without making important music.
Baxter in turn left the Doobie Brothers this year, as did drummer John Hartman. The Doobie Brothers unveiled their revamped lineup Saturday night at the Capital Centre. The new septet showed more of a California pop sound under the leadership of Michael McDonald. It still sounded like a very competent but unsubstantial car radio band.
New guitarist John McFee, who played on Elvis Costello's first album, added a country fiddle and pedal steel guitar to two tunes. Guitarist Patrick Simmons, the only remaining original member, traded hard rock solos with McFee on "Dependin' On You." New drummer Chet McCracken added Latinesque congas to "Long Train Runnin'."
New saxophonist/singer Cornelius Bumpus reinforced McDonald's heavy soul influences. McDonald re-created his throaty vocals from the band's most recent hits, "Minute by Miute" and "What a Fool Believes."
The Night, a new band of old demi-stars, also promises to be an entertaining but limited band. Saturday, they were graced by the lush piano fills of everybody's favorite session pianist, Nickie Hopkins. Chris Thompson re-created his own lead vocal from Manfred Mann's "Blinded by the Light." Singer Stevie Langet sounded like a raw-edged Stevie Nicks on Walter Egan's "Hot Summer Nights." Lead guitarist Robbie McIntosh has also had top-10 experience with the Average White Band.