Saturday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion, Eddie Money introduced "Baby Hold On," his late '70s smash hit, by saying, "You know, I made a lot of money from this song." With such an obvious statement, Money underlined his apparent philosophy toward his music: Write tunes with the substance of a Pop Tart and watch America devour them.

And so the show went, with Money dishing out platters of his Top-40 hits from much of the last decade, while coming dangerously close to running out of breath when singing at the top end of his vocal range. As a musician, the former New York cop provided some bratty staccato sax work and a little harmonica blowing to add hue to otherwise colorless teen anthems.

There is little doubt as to Money's ability as a pop craftsman to come up with melodic hooks that can satiate a shower-singer's appetite for new material. His most recent successes, the instantly hummable "I Want to Go Back" and "Take Me Home Tonight," complete with a digitally recorded Ronnie Spector voice for backup vocals, offered bright spots. Moldies like "Two Tickets to Paradise" and "No Control" were served with little fire and were surrounded by forgettable tunes like "Broken Down Chevy" and "Endless Nights." Although Money was able to put some bop in their socks with "I Think I'm in Love" and "Wanna Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star," most of his portfolio consisted of radio fodder.

Like Pop Tarts, no one said Eddie Money's rock romps have to be nutritious. They just have to taste good. -- Todd Allan Yasui Budweiser Superfest

The Budweiser Superfest got off to a damp start Saturday when a heavy downpour drenched the audience and left the field of RFK Stadium a swamp, giving opener Gladys Knight and the Pips a trying set. Even a soulful rendition of "Midnight Train to Georgia" had serious competition in the shape of thunder and lightning.

The rain ended while the Gap Band was on stage, and it was a testament to its funkiness that, despite inadequate sound, it still had the rain-soaked crowd pumping. The group threw down a frenetic "Party Train" that worked into "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," and finished with its new hit, "Zibble, Zibble (Give the Money Back)."

Atlantic Starr followed, opening with a blurry rendition of "Silver Shadow." But it shone in the slow duets, especially "Secret Lovers" and the always touching "Always."

The show stopper of the star-studded event was Patti LaBelle, who arrived on stage decked out in a shimmering silver-sequined dress. She sang her recent hits, "Something Special" and "On My Own," but it was "You Are My Friend" that showcased her seemingly effortless vocal acrobatics. It was as if her body couldn't contain the power of her voice -- she waved her arms with gospel fervor, ran in place, then kicked her shoes off, sending them flying across the stage. Her encore was a soul-searing "Over the Rainbow."

Up next was Washington's Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly. Wearing his trademark white baseball cap, Beverly worked the adoring crowd, and had them chanting and singing along. "I Want to Feel Like I'm Wanted" was intoxicating with its reggaelike groove, and when Beverly sang the first notes of "Joy and Pain," RFK's balconies were shaking with dancing and swaying.

Capping it all off was sex symbol and crooner extraordinaire Luther Vandross. The uptempo "Since I Lost My Baby" and "Give Me the Reason" sounded just like they do on vinyl. But his raison d'e~tre are those love songs, and the crowd shrieked to the inspirational ballads "House Without a Home" and "Still in Love," delivered s-l-o-w-l-y for maximum shrieks.

The evening was clearly a victory over the elements. -- Alona Wartofsky