The pairing of the Charlie Daniels Band and the Nighthawks at the Merriweather Post Pavillion last night was not unlike the showdown between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles two weeks ago. Like the Yankees, the Charlie Daniels Band had the good press and big bucks on their side, but played like overpaid, overrated superstars. Like the Orioles, the unsung Nighthawks used teamwork and sound fundamentals to emerge as the evening's winners.

The 14-member Charlie Daniels Band headlined, and they had some big hits: "In America," "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," and "Uneasy Rider." Played together in concert, though, these tunes were exposed as the opportunistic novelty songs they are. Furthermore, the band suffered from costly errors: tiresome guitar solos and narcotic rhythms. With all the ego of a Reggie Jackson and just a fraction of the talent, Daniels himself bragged, berated his critics and sang off-key.

As the opening act, the four underdog Nighthawks pulled a stunning upset.Just as the Orioles know the key to baseball is pitching, the Nighthawks know the key to rock'n'roll is rhythm. Bassist Jan Zukowski and drummer Pete Ragusa added a rock 'n' roll thrust to their old blues stomp on Eddie Hinton's "Brand New Man" and Larry Williams' "Slow Down." With this tight backing, Mark Wenner and Jimmy Thackery provided more than enough offense on harmonica and guitar. Thackery scored at will as he scraped sexual squeals out of his guitar during "Scratch My Back."