Steve Forbert led one of the finest folk-rock bands left in the land into the Wax Museum last night. His lean, muscular quintet fleshed out Forbert's weaker songs with new credibility and transformed his best songs into grand pieces of theater. The band inspired Forbert to some of the best singing of his career as he balanced perfectly his boyish charm and his biting urgency.
In sharp contrast to his early days, Forbert's electrified numbers are now more effective than his acoustic ones. Yet his earliest compositions are still his best and benefited the most from this improved delivery. Forbert supplied the twangy rhythm guitar, Dylanesque harmonica and tale-spinning lyrics. Ex-Orleans drummer Wells Kelly supplied the sharp beat; Paul Errico played the organ and Cajun accordion. "It Isn't Gonna Be That Way" built from a slow simmering ballad into a grand crescendo of stubborn defiance. The irony in "Midsummer Night's Toast" was underscored by John Leventhal's surly guitar, which sliced at Forbert's bubbly voice.
Opening the show was Aztec Two-Step, the New York duo of singer-guitarists Rex Fowler & Neil Shulman. Their songs drifted between nostalgic innocence and cloying cuteness. They banged their guitars and joined voices in sweet harmonies with a refreshing spiritedness that compensated for their material.