As oldies shows go, the one at Constitution Hall Saturday night was a disappointing affair. However, outside of a somewhat shrill and perfunctory performance by the Shirelles (sorely missing the light Shirley Alston), the evening's acts were all in fine voice. What dragged performers down was shoddy sound and the obviously unrehearsed Rosco Bowie Band, which groped for the right tempos and chord changes all night. Time and time again, the somewhat reverant and romantic atmosphere needed to sustain the spell of these oldies was shattered by inept and obtrusive arrangements.
As ususal, D.C.'s Velons were outstanding, displaying considerable versatility in four-part harmonies and stopping the show with Buddy Owens' dramatic rendition of the Drifters' "Your Promise to Be Mine." Although the Skyliners' performance veered uncomfortably toward lounge act formulas, it drew the evening's biggest response with a typically slick and well choreographed set of vocal group classics.
Both Mary Wells and Ben E. King sang their many hits in their impressively distinctive vocal styles, but it was hard not to miss the equally distinctive musical productions that helped make "My Guy" or "Stand by Me" hits in the first place. The evening's standout was Eugene Pitt and the Jive Five. Their performance of past hits such as "My True Story" and modern material like Steely Dan's "Hey Nineteen" rested the case for vocal group music on the timeless emotional charge of human voices rather than just on the memory of well-worn records.