Sublimely Meticulous

Linda Ronstadt, with The Richie Furay Band. At the Santa
Barbara Bowl, Friday, July 14.

Reviewed by Brett Leigh Dicks

Given that last Friday night was destined to be a celebration of
popular music, it seemed only fitting that Richie Furay should open
the proceedings. Furay was the founder of Buffalo Springfield, the
band that not only launched its founder’s career, but also those of
Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and Jim Messina. And it was even more
fitting that the enthusiastic Furay should be joined onstage by a
couple of Santa Barbara friends, namely his former Buffalo
Springfield and Poco cohort Jim Messina along with Messina’s
subsequent musical ally, Kenny Loggins. Backed by Furay’s intimate
instrumental cast, which included his daughter, Jessie, on backup
vocals, the threesome rollicked their way through energized
versions of Buffalo Springfield’s “Kind Woman” and Poco’s “You
Better Think Twice.”

As Linda Ronstadt guided us through a cross-section of
20th-century contemporary classics, one of popular music’s true
chameleons presented us with a measured yet considered
interpretation of musical history. From the sublime to the
meticulous, Ronstadt delivered some of music’s most alluring
standards, mixed with an enticing sprinkling of more contemporary
offerings. It takes a special talent to seamlessly blend songs such
as Billy Strayhorn’s heart-wrenching “Lush Life” and Warren Zevon’s
sardonic “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” into the same evening of music.
But through the scrutiny of Ronstadt’s remarkable vocal prowess,
the Tucson native and her rotating musical support cast managed
more than a little musical merging.

When it comes to her arrangements, Linda Ronstadt is by no means
the most audacious conveyer of musical servitude. But this approach
afforded the standards an endearing graciousness and the polished
musical renderings only served to reaffirm Ronstadt’s vocal
dexterity. For the most part, Ronstadt’s unswerving and coherent
interpretations shimmered from the stage, as the whimsical beauty
of “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” the gorgeous “Bewitched Bothered
and Bewildered,” and an enchanting presentation of “Just One Look”
effortlessly demonstrated. And while her saunter wasn’t without an
occasional stumble — most notably the maudlin and formulaic
“Somewhere Out There” from the An American Tail
soundtrack — redemption came quickly and decisively via the encore
with Roy Orbison’s delightful “Blue Bayou.”


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