There's more than just friendly camaraderie evident when the Temptations and the Four Tops share a bill, as they did at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night. There's a competitive spirit too that keeps both groups from merely coasting down memory lane.
This time around it was the Temptations who ultimately emerged triumphant, but not because the Tops' Levi Stubbs, one of the great soul singers of all time, didn't give it his all. Stubbs's commanding baritone sounded as big and as passionate as ever, especially when the quartet evoked its glory days with "Bernadette," "Reach Out, I'll Be There," "It's the Same Old Song" and "I Can't Help Myself." Too often, though, the songs were compressed into briskly shifting medleys that didn't allow Stubbs to finish what he had so powerfully begun.
Even without Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin, the Temptations remain a treat to hear and watch. Ollie Woodson, in particular, sang baritone with gritty emotion, while the tenor parts were smoothly handled by both Ron Tyson and Richard Street. Colorfully choreographed, the show included vibrant and comparatively lengthy versions of "Just My Imagination" "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone" and Smokey Robinson's "The Way You Do the Things You Do." Another Robinson classic, "My Girl," found the Temps consorting onstage with a few members of the audience, who were encouraged to sing a verse or two alone. Among them were two extremely bashful women who looked as if they'd rather have been in Baghdad.