It's hard to believe the Lovin' Spoonful broke up 13 years ago. It's not quite so hard to remember them with a smile, as most people who heard John Sebastian at the Bayou last night seemed to be able to do. Sebastain, the group's lead singer and songwriter, has pursued a solo career since 1967, but it's the Spoonful songs that people come to hear, songs marked by a folksy gentility and wry humor. Sebastian didn't ask "Do You Believe in Magic?" during his opening set, but it was obvious that his fans still do.
Sebastian as a solo performer is something more than the sum of his talents. As a singer, he compensates for a narrow range and somewhat bland timbre with charismatic delivery; he's a solid guitarists, and an even better harmonica player, but as bare backing for his songs, his instrumental work is not spectacular. But the songs, more specifically the old songs, elevate the mood of the listener and inspire the singer, creating a mutual empathy.
Some of Sebastian's later songs -- written for movies, television shows, animated features, and whatnot -- tend to be slight and obvious. There are exceptions -- "She's a Lady," for one -- but it's the old Sebastian that folks enjoy and the artist seemed willing to spread the material over his two sets. It set up a gently raucous situation between songs, with people shouting for any of the two dozen or so Spoonful hits that sound as fresh today as in 1967. It makes one long for a group reunion, something that can't be wished of most the other popular groups from that period.