Power-singing softie Michael McDonald committed a cardinal live-show sin at Nissan Pavilion Friday night. After casually taking a seat behind a center-stage keyboard, the former Doobie Brother greeted a sparse but excitable crowd with a chummy "Good evening, Raleigh!" Oops.
He tried to cover for the gaffe with a self-deprecating crack about his blown-back mane of silver hair: "I just got offered a job as Bea Arthur's stand-in." Then, with that awesome, ageless wall-of-warmth voice, he erased all remaining hard feelings via a 70-minute set that was the rousing highlight of the "Rock & Soul Revue," a shamelessly hit-packed singalong that also featured fellow blue-eyed-soulsters Hall & Oates.
To the delight of dozens of sturdy, high-coiffed, bearded look-alikes who apparently consider the 52-year-old McDonald a fashion leader, the crooner chugged through classics from the days when the Doobies were Hell's Angels' rockers of choice: "Takin' It to the Streets," "You Belong to Me," "Minute by Minute." He got the over-35 crowd shuffling with covers from his mega-selling "Motown" album: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."
And proving that he can still make sappy romantics out of the most cynical, McDonald, backed by a five-piece band, saved some so-lonesome oomph for soft-hit hall-of-famer "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)."
Hall & Oates, hailed as "the most successful rock duo of all time," can match anyone pop hit for pop hit. And during their fun if sloppy 70-minute set, they worked through a good chunk of their arsenal: "She's Gone," "Sara Smile," "One on One." But 57-year-old Daryl Hall's once sky-scraping pipes have thinned a bit -- his "ooh-oohs" are now "oh- ohs" -- and his constant vocal riffing seemed weak following McDonald.
Plus, the Philly boys too often expanded their pop confections into unimaginative jams. Had they not turned "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" into a 10-minute saxfest, maybe they would have had time for "Private Eyes," an unforgivable omission.
McDonald and show openers the Average White Band joined the duo for a 30-minute all-star finale that included spirited but clumsy takes on H&O's "You Make My Dreams" and "Kiss on My List." But saving the night from letdown was McDonald, who cut through the muck on a showstopping "What a Fool Believes." They just might have heard him in Raleigh after all.