Classic Rock Corner

Last Night: The Doobie Brothers At House Of Blues

They are one of the classic American rock bands of the '70s and '80s, boast nearly a double CD's worth of hits from three distinct eras, always play with incredible musicianship, and still feature original singer/guitarists Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons.

So why was Aftermath - though we enjoyed the show - somewhat underwhelmed by this Doobie Brothers experience, like digesting the empty calories of a liter of Classic Rock Cola?

The band played the exact identical set from last summer's co-headlining gig with Chicago at the Woodlands, adding only latter-day hit "Dangerous" and Simmons' somewhat tepid ballad "Far From Home." The latter is one of four numbers performed from 2010's World Gone Crazy record, a fine effort even if it did need a couple of shots of harder material.

Still, to these ears, the show sounded fairly rote and practiced with little hint of spontaneity. The crowd - admittedly one of the largest and happiest this Last Night correspondent has seen at the HOB - got what they came for in a barrage of familiar FM hits, with "Clear as the Driven Snow" thrown in for deep-trackers and a cover of the blues standard "Don't Start Me to Talkin'" to showcase their jammier side.

Of the band, sax player Marc Russo and keyboardist Guy Allison stood out by adding flourishes to the material, which also included some tasty guitar solos from longtime member John McFee. Bassist John Cowan and double drummers Ed Toth and Tony Pia held down the rhythm.

As usual, Simmons remained committed but a bit inscrutable, leaving Johnston to front-man duties, grinning under that bushy walrus moustaches and jabbing the air with his fist. If only they could give a similar powerful injection to the set list and let themselves cut loose a bit more the next time.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero