For the last five years, Roy Orbison has been touring with the same band, playing a standard one-hour set of his early '60s hits, and reaching the same spine-tingling notes in all the right places. At Wolf Trap Monday night, Orbison delivered the goods again, bringing the audience repeatedly to its feet as his operatic tenor attacked the dramatic climaxes in intense ballads like "It's Over" and "Running Scared."
It is a testament to Orbison's emotive power (not to mention the quality of his songs) that the predictability of his performance only seemed to heighten its impact. As usual, Orbison proved himself a superb blues singer, his tense delivery and feline growl granting an erotic edge to "Candy Man" and "Mean Woman Blues." Orbison also returned to his days as a rockabilly on "Ooby Dooby" and "Go Go Go," ripping off some sputtery electric guitar solos in the process. However, the blues and the rockers were only breathing space between perhaps the most sumptuously passionate ballads in rock history.
Opening was veteran rocker Johnny Rivers, whose enjoyable set matched the unpretentious character of his string of '60s hits. To his credit, Rivers convincingly delivered almost all of his hits, from "Memphis" to "Swaying to the Music," without resorting to medleys, sing-alongs or references to the good old days.