There are concerts and then there are shows. Cameo's performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night was definitely the latter -- a flamboyant bump-and-grind funkfest from start to finish.
Backed by a 10-piece band, the trio capitalized on recent hits like "She's Strange" and "Candy," songs that have finally given the 10-year-old group a strong identity. If Larry Blackmon's raspy voice and sly delivery are Cameo's most distinctive assets on record, its strengths on stage are much more visual and diffuse. Each member of the ensemble seemed caught up in the rhythms, as the key players paraded about in erotically choreographed patterns. By the time the group got around to singing "Word Up," the dance-crazed crowd had become as much a part of the show as Cameo itself.
The System's opening set was tame by comparison, but it did build steadily before concluding with the apt "Don't Disturb This Groove." -- Mike Joyce
Opening her show at the 9:30 club Wednesday night with a powerful version of Patsy Cline's torch blues "Don't Ever Leave Me," K.D. Lang let everyone know where her inspiration lies and how her backup band, the Reclines, got their name. Lang also let everyone know that she possesses a magnificent voice capable of wringing new emotion out of the tiredest lyric.
If the Canadian-born Lang were just a talented country chanteuse, she'd already be in Nashville cranking out hits. But Lang and the Reclines are also a genre-busting ensemble that thinks nothing of compressing country, swing, rock 'n' roll, square dances and polkas into one exuberant, honky-tonk free-for-all. Lang cavorted, wiggled and stomped around the stage in her billowing cowgirl skirt, raised her voice in bone-rattling wails, and even picked up the fiddle for one breakdown. In fact, her zany theatricality and operatic voice were reminiscent of a hayseed version of Cyndi Lauper.
As much fun as Lang and the Reclines delivered at high speed, it was really the slower, traditional numbers that raised the temperature. In addition to three Cline ballads, Lang brought new life to some unexpected covers -- Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden" and Joanie Sommers' "Johnny Get Angry." At any tempo, Lang is a big talent, and she managed to transform an initially blase' crowd of 100 into a war-whooping fan club. -- Joe Sasfy
Tal Farlow When it comes to dazzling displays of melodic improvisation, no jazz guitarist can match Tal Farlow. Opening at Cates Wednesday night, Farlow and bassist Steve Novosel engaged in a series of seamless duets, performing a clutch of pop standards with extraordinary drive and harmonic finesse.
With his large, restless hands, Farlow nearly reinvented familiar pieces like "Misty" and "Time After Time." Sometimes the melodies would gradually unfold, peaking out from under lush chords, and sometimes they'd appear boldly, in brisk strums. In either case, Farlow's keen harmonic sense would eventually transform the melodies, turning them this way and that without losing their original charm. His warm tone, crisp articulation, extraordinary speed (best displayed on "Seven Come Eleven") and trademark use of artificial harmonics made for an irresistible combination, one which clearly inspired Novosel to perform at his very best.
The engagement runs through Sunday night.
-- Mike Joyce