Out on the jampacked lawn at Merriweather Post Pavilion Thursday night, beyond the crest where it was all but impossible to see the stage, several hundred people sang "Oh Atlanta" with the same lung power that greeted Little Feat inside the arena earlier in the evening when the band performed "Fat Man in the Bathtub." Little wonder, then, that guitarist Paul Barrere described the show as a second homecoming.
It was also proof that, for some bands at least, there's life after death. Lowell George may be gone, but he's hardly forgotten. His lasting influence on the band was evidenced not only by Craig Fuller's throaty vocals but by the largely faithful versions of numerous Feat hits, including a near-acoustic "Willin' " and rousing versions of "Dixie Chicken" and "Tripe Face Boogie," colorfully punctuated by Fred Tackett's Dixieland trumpet. Except for "The Ingenue" and some other comparatively lightweight tunes, the band consistently displayed its strengths by emphasizing Barrere's piercing slide guitar, Bill Payne's boogie-woogie piano and the ceaselessly syncopated teamwork of drummer Richie Hayward and percussionist Sam Clayton. Clayton even got a chance to step forward at one point to moan his way through Howlin' Wolf's "Forty Four" blues.
Earlier, John Hiatt was backed by a solid five-piece band, but he ultimately turned his opening set into a one-man soul show by loosely choreographing and sometimes adding touches of pantomime to terrific versions of "Slow Turning," "Child of the Wild Blue Yonder" and "Rock Back Billy."