Wilson Pickett wasn't his wickedly entertaining self at Constitution Hall Saturday night. Far from it. Suffering from what he suspected was the onset of the flu, the legendary soul man coasted through a lackluster performance in which his band was prominently featured.
Even before Pickett confessed to feeling a little ill, it was clear he wasn't going to spend the night breaking a sweat for the audience's sake. When he opened with "In the Midnight Hour," his unmistakably raspy baritone seemed oddly muted, as if the singer was intent on carefully pacing himself for the show's duration.
Which proved to be the case. Just when it appeared that Pickett might be willing to test his stamina, he shifted the focus to his eight-piece band--among other things, it punctuated the show with a superfluous reprise of "Brick House"--or invited audience members onstage to demonstrate their vocal skills, or lack thereof.
As a result, anyone who'd come to hear Pickett in prime form had to settle for uneven versions of "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You," "Funky Broadway," "Mustang Sally" and the title song from his new album, "It's Harder Now."
Pickett's performance capped a night-long soul music sampler featuring several artists, including Clarence Carter and Betty Wright. There was nothing fashionably retro or tiresomely sentimental about Wright's performance. Best known for her 1971 hit, "Clean Up Woman," she is still an R&B dynamo onstage. Whether updating her old songs, scolding rappers who've stolen her music or mimicking Tina Turner with requisite power and strut, Wright was immensely entertaining.
As with a lot of party bands, Everything's records are not as good as its live show. Saturday night at the 9:30 club, the Virginia sextet punctuated a long holiday weekend with a good-natured set of mildly funky frat rock.
Singer Craig Honeycutt is an energetic front man, and he pumped the unit through a wide variety of originals, from "Spent" to the older "I Don't Care" to "Cherri." The music tossed in a pinch of ska with influences that ranged from Dave Matthews to bar band pro Southside Johnny.
Everything's strength is also its biggest drawback: good grooving rock, but mindless good grooving rock. Even some new, as-yet-unrecorded numbers sounded similar--light and carefree funkish rock.
Luckily, the collegiate-looking crowd seemed intent on satisfying their booty, not their brains, and on that order Everything did the job.
Openers Earth to Andy balanced the psychical and the cerebral far better, delivering a smart set of melodic hard rock. This foursome with hometown roots produces some of the most listenable riff rock going, led by singer-guitarist Andy (just Andy).
E to A pits brawny chords with a typically macho rhythm section but truly explodes when sweeping choruses introduce memorable hooks.
Especially fine was the trio of "Everafter," "Smoke Ring" and "Sometimes," which sounded razor-sharp.
On the closing combination of "Still" and "Biting at My Heels," which slyly suggests Led Zep's "Kashmir," Earth to Andy crackled with the kinetic energy of a band clearly on a roll.