Who would have guessed 15 years ago that Lou Rawls, then singing about "Dead End Street" and "Tobacco Road," would one day end up on Madison Avenue hawking beer for a national brewery?
For longtime fans, it hasn't been easy to reconcile the two Rawles -- the '60s jazz stylist with the '70s pop celebrity -- and last night at Wolf Trap even the singer himself seemed to be suffering from an occasional identity crisis.
He began the concert by updating his most recent recordings, and undistinguished collection of tunes hammered out in a perfunctory fashion by his 11-piece band. It wasn't until later, when he chose the unlikely song "Tomorrow from Anne" that Rawls managed to convey to the audience the warmth and power of his unique voice, a molasses-thick baritone.Then, with just the rhythym section behind him, he offered a haunting medley of "When Sunny Gets Blue" and the "The Shadow of Your Smile" -- as evocative of the blues as anything he's ever recorded. Yet, a moment later the spell was broken. It was time for Budweiser and its brassy theme song.
All told, Rawls handed out a little something for everyone last night, but given his extraordinary talent, one expects more.