At Desperado's last night, Del Shannon confirmed his status not only as an underrated composer, but also as an underrated performer. Shannon pieced together a vigorous, straightforward rock manifesto that eschewed all but the essentials -- gut-bucket singing, a four-on-the-floor beat, catchy melodic lines and innocent enthusiasm.
Shannon's patented falsetto first appeared on "Hats Off to Larry" and bloomed in "Runaway," a certified '60s rock 'n' roll gem. While organist Gary Johnson recreated the skittish backbone of the original, Shannon alternated between angry theme and despondent chorus; an enthusiastic audience proved that a true falsetto is a gift, not an ambition.
The set included such chestnuts as Shannon's rocked-up "Handyman," a more than passable Hank Williams tune, a poignant "I Go to Pieces" and several selections from Shannon's recent comeback album. Throughout, Shannon seemed geniunely pleased with the warm reception he was afforded, stepping into each song with a novice's enthusiasm and guilessness. A two-month-old and as yet unrecorded song called "Cheap Love" suggested Shannon has not lost his innate pop sensibility, but for now he seems happy enough to be back home in a spotlight that warms rather than glares.