Bob Hope wasn't at a loss for quips Tuesday night at Constitution Hall. But before he walked offstage to a standing ovation, he reflected on his Vietnam USO tours and how he only saw "the soldiers laughing and enjoying themselves." Then he saw films like "Platoon." "I'm just glad they're getting their just due," he said.
Which was precisely the point of the concert, a benefit for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. In addition to Hope, the elaborately staged show featured performances by the Judds and Alabama, and raised over $100,OOO to pay for the inscription of 24 names just added to the memorial. (The concert was sponsored by Philip Morris USA as part of its "Marlboro Country Music" series.)
Hope, of course, couldn't resist ribbing the White House while he was in town. "Do you believe how fast the Ginsburg nomination went to pot?" he cracked at one point. "He should have been investigated by a joint committee." The most memorable and stirring segment followed: a slide presentation of wartime photographs taken by Pulitzer Prize winner Eddie Adams and several of his colleagues. The images, mostly in black and white, captured a curious mixture of pride, fear, mourning and camaraderie.
Musically, the show offered few surprises, but then the hootin', hollerin', foot-stompin' crowd probably wouldn't have wanted it any other way. The Judds eased their way through a bluesy collection of hits, distinguished by tight harmonies, bouncy rhythms and Wynonna's earthy contralto. Alabama proved even more of a crowd-pleaser. Apart from a couple of rock standards and ballads such as "Deep River Woman," the band raced headlong into its uptempo hits, most of them highlighted by Jeff Cook's bristling guitar and fiddle. As an extra treat, Hope and the Judds joined Alabama during the encores to sing "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms."