There was a special kind of rock 'n' roll relief in being at Wolf Trap last night: Just because you're nostalgic doesn't mean the '60s are worth reviving.
Actually there was more than golden oldies to the Righteous Brothers-John Sebastian double-header. Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield were among the most polished of Phil Spector's creations, operating within a fine but formulaic urban blues idiom. Sebastian, as the guiding genius of the Lovin' Spoonful, reveled in a kind of rock 'n' roll anarchy, mixing rockabilly and R&B into jug band rock. Although they coexisted, the Righteous Brothers and the Lovin' Spoonful were quite literally a continent apart.
Sebastian had the edge last night, partly because of his ineffable stage presence, but more because he remains an evolving composer, with both a consistency and a sense of surprise in his more than 15 years worth of material.
The Righteous Brothers, on what they are calling their 20th anniversary tour, have acquired a little too much polish and palaver. Their short-tall routine threatened to turn them into the Sonny and Cher of summer reruns. Cuteness aside, they remained first-rate R&B vocalists, especially Hatfield, who has the best soul groan outside Southside Johnny.