The eight-man cast was the same as in recent years. So were the songs, for the most part. In fact, as farewell concerts go, the Doobie Brothers' show at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night was surprisingly uneventful. If anything, the band's last waltz was orchestrated much like its recent albums--smoothly, with deliberate care and precision but little in the way of anything new.
Not that the band didn't rock hard occasionally. Early in the show, veteran guitarist Pat Simmons jumped from the stage and darted through the crowd, taking a few latecomers by surprise. He, along with fellow guitarist John McFee and keyboard/sax player Cornelius Bumpus, were instrumental in ringing a hard and welcome edge to some old hits. And at one point, in a lighter vein, both Simmons and McFee calmed the huge and wildly appreciative crowd with a lovely acoustic duet.
But there were few glimpses of the Doobies of old--the loose and bluesy bar band. Keyboard player Mike McDonald dominated the band's new material so completely, with his jazzy chord changes, poppish R&B arrangements and airy baritone, that the rest of the Doobies could have passed for a pickup band much of the time. McDonald's vocals on such songs as "Minute by Minute" and "Echoes of Love" may have been letter perfect, but, compared to the band's untamed versions of "Jesus Is Alright" and "China Grove," they often seemed unnecessarily controlled and better suited to the airwaves.