Although George Mason University's new Patriot Center had already debuted as a basketball arena, it faced an even stiffer challenge last night when it opened as a rock concert hall. The approximately 7,000 fans who came to hear Three Dog Night and the Beach Boys had no problem getting to the arena and parking, and also enjoyed a first-class concert setting inside. While Patriot Center holds twice as many people as Constitution Hall, its smaller and warmer interior offered far superior sound and viewing.

The show itself came off flawlessly, but also predictably. Three Dog Night's three vocalists sang competently but without distinction but were redeemed by the superb material they turned into hits in the early '70s, like Laura Nyro's "Eli's Coming."

The Beach Boys put on a ragged and perfunctory performance that, despite their grand song legacy, never transcended the predictable ritual of any oldies act. Basking in the glow of their self-appointed status as "America's band," the group played its surf-and-sun classics as if to reassure us that there really is such a thing as safe and harmless rock 'n' roll fun. Strangely enough, lead singer Mike Love appeared to lip-sync his way through the show while an anonymous guitarist stood in the back singing his parts.