Last night's performances by David Lindley and Joe Walsh at the Merriweather Post Pavilion offered a sharp contrast between a light touch and a heavy hand. Both Lindley and Walsh are talented guitarists, but Lindley's playing had a light, elusive bounce that kept it one step ahead of expectations. Walsh's playing was weighed down by predictable heavy metal excess.
Lindley -- best known as Jackson Browne's accompanist -- drew on the bouncy lilt of Mexican and Caribbean music and the sneaky syncopation of American rhythm & blues. Whether playing a bluegrass reel on the fiddle, an Isley Brothers classic on slide guitar or a Mexican tune on the banduria, Lindley captured the jaunty grace that united all folk music. He was greatly assisted by Trinidad's George "Baboo" Pierre, who danced and banged spirited percussion out of tin boxes, wooden boxes, finger cymbals and snare drums.
With the headlining Joe Walsh Band, the whole was less that the sum of the parts. Walsh himself is one of hard rock's best guitarists, playing strong, melodic lines with a bite.Drummer Russ Kunkel and bassist George "Chocolate" Perry are among the best session players anywhere. Yet these individual talents were often sabotaged by Walsh's tinny voice, contrived songs and plodding arrangements. Whether the songs came from his stints with the James Gang and the Eagles or from his solo albums, they were largely indistinguishable. Not suprisingly the band's best moments came when they abandoned vocals and arrangements and just jammed. Then Walsh's good guitar instincts got a chance to shine.