There was no rest for the roadies at Merriweather Post Pavilion Thursday night. Scrambling on and off stage all night, crews constantly rearranged instruments and gear to accommodate a 10-member all-star tour featuring Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Bruce Hornsby, Shawn Colvin and David Lindley.
With the help of drummer Wally Ingram, Lindley opened the show in typical form, which is to say he was a lot easier on the ears than he was on the eyes. (Raitt took one look at his riotously colorfully wardrobe and dubbed him "the Roswell flash"). Playing Hawaiian square-neck guitar, mandolin and other instruments, Lindley engaged in a series of globe-trotting duets with Ingram that were laced with an West-meets-East blend of droning tones, sliding runs and twisted humor.
Afterward, the hits started coming--and kept coming, though in many cases they were rearranged to accommodate all of the instrumentalists onstage. Colvin's "Sunny Came Home," for example, took on new colors and harmonies thanks in part to Hornsby's accompaniment on accordion. Raitt's hit rendering of John Hiatt's "A Thing Called Love" was turned into a chummy duet as she and Hornsby traded and sometimes tripped over the verses. In one of the most affecting ensemble performances, Raitt also led the cast in a hushly harmonized version of Richard Thompson's yearning ballad "Dimming of the Day."
When the tempo quickened, Raitt's bottleneck guitar work inspired several of the evening's highlights, including a crowd-fueled version of "Something to Talk About." Browne, looking and sounding not unlike he did 20 years ago, frequently drew on his early hits for inspiration, delivering a reflective "Barricades of Heaven" and impassioned takes of "The Pretender" and "Running on Empty." Hornsby, meanwhile, elicited one of the biggest responses from the audience with his breakthrough hit, "The Way It Is," which began as a baroque keyboard invention and ended as a rousing rock anthem. The encores, including a warmly harmonized "The End of the Innocence," found all of the musicians onstage, clearly savoring the moment and enjoying the good company.
CAPTION: Bonnie Raitt provided several of the evening's highlights.