The Tubes brought their extravagant theatrical-rock show to the Merriweather Post Pavilion Saturday night, but the theater was even more sophomoric than the rock. The California septet tried to dress up their formulaic hard-pop songs with cartoonish costumes, props and backdrops but only further revealed their desperate lack of imagination. Moreover, many of their allegedly funny routines descended into sexist and racist stereotypes as their two go-go dancers dressed up as burlesque dancers, bondage victims, geisha girls and African natives.
The Tubes' music relied heavily on grandiose guitar riffs and pompous synthesizer swells. They showed a knack for catchy pop hooks, but not for making those hooks the least bit original. For the finale version of their best-known song, "White Punks on Dope," lead singer Fee Waybill dressed up as Louis XIV in silver platform shoes, and the whole set came tumbling down in a mock earthquake. One can only hope it was the end of an era.
By contrast, Kix breathed new life into the heavy metal genre with an opening set that began with the screaming attack of "Cool Kids" and never let up as the Hagerstown Quintet raced through seven songs in half an hour. Lead singer Steve Whiteman was in constant motion as he stutter-stepped and somersaulted between falsetto siren calls. The band indulged in AC/DC excess, but underneath it all was a sturdy Rolling Stones backbeat. If Kix never transcended their limited genre, they played it as well as anyone has in the '80s.