Anyone who went to Merriweather Post Pavilion last night in hopes of hearing Linda Ronstadt sing letter-perfect versions of her recordings got his wish. Anyone hoping for something more than that, however, should have stayed home.
As polished as it was perfunctory, the show opened with a string of songs that Ronstadt covered relatively early in her career, including "It's So Easy to Fall in Love," an English-Spanish version of "Blue Bayou" and "Tumbling Dice." In a low-cut black velvet dress, Ronstadt looked more like the pop diva who went on tour with Nelson Riddle a few years ago than the rock singer of old, but her voice still had a lusty edge to it and power to spare. Unfortunately, she followed the original arrangements so closely that many of the performances seemed curiously lifeless and unmoving.
Even so, "You're No Good," "Just One Look," "Heat Wave" and other Top 40 hits were far more vibrant and entertaining than the five bland ballads by Jimmy Webb that Ronstadt performed, after calling him "our finest contemporary songwriter." Not surprisingly, the sentimental highlight of the show came when Aaron Neville joined Ronstadt for "Don't Know Much" and two other duets, and when he returned with her for a soulful encore of "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby."
Earlier, Aaron and the rest of the Neville Brothers made the most of an all-too-brief hour-long set. The song list allowed Aaron Neville to display his heavenly tenor on "Tell It Like It Is" and "Bird on a Wire," and for his bandmates to carve out an incessantly syncopated and infectious groove on "My Blood," "Fiyo on the Bayou" and "Brother Jake."