More than a few rock musicians have been accused of being cheerleaders on stage, but at the Capital Centre last night, Linda Ronstadt came dressed as one: red sweatshirt, pleated skirt, knee socks, everything but the pompons.
Not that any of this was necessary, of course. The performance, a benefit concert for the Ronald McDonald House, attracted more than 10,000 people, most of whom would have cheered on Ronstadt in any guise. And for most of the concert, they had good reason to do just that.
After hearing her mighty soprano soar on songs like Buddy Holly's "It's So Easy" and her new single "Get Closer," there was no denying Ronstadt's extraordinary vocal range and power. She brought an enormous sense of vitality to those songs, and the spirit was sustained by her top-flight musicians, among them Waddy Wachtel, Lee Sklar and Bill Payne. Other songs sparkled, too, as the singer confidently recalled her country-rock roots, her brief flirtation with New Wave rock, and performed additional material from her current album.
But Ronstadt was less successful with songs that required subtle interpretative skills. Elvis Costello's "Party Girl," for example, was burdened by her overly dramatic delivery, as was the George Jones number, "Sometimes You Just Can't Win." Clearly, Ronstadt was better off singing songs that demanded more power than expression.
The Bus Boys opened the show by mixing clever wordplay with exuberant rock and reggae rhythms.