Eric Burdon/ Photo by Steve Cohen
Score a handful of hits, keep your voice in good shape and display an appealing personality and your career in the music business can last a long time. Good examples are Eric Burdon and Trisha Yearwood, who played to packed suburban music rooms on Friday at the Medina and Saturday at Mystic Lake, respectively.
What a charming gent with a good band, a great growl and enough enduring hits to keep a raised-on-KQ crowd happy for 80 minutes. Best known as the frontman of the Animals, Burdon, 72, delivered most of the hits from ‘60s like they still mattered. He was dramatic,occasionally playful and consistently enthusiastic. Plus, he played a mean cowbell.
“Wait,” a new ballad with a flamenco vibe from last year’s “Til the River Runs Dry” album, challenged his high end and invited comparisons to Tom Jones, who would have handled this with more power and aplomb. And “Sky Pilot,” done in a minor-key with too-loud bass, sounded like it was headed for a crash landing; the performance aroused maybe only 10 percent of the 1,500 fans.
By contrast, Burdon’s other hits still resonated -- even the ones about youthful angst. He let the crowd sing the punch-line of the reggae-tinged “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” with baby-boomer gusto. “Spill the Wine” was spiked with flute, and “House of the Rising Sun” was filled with peace and love. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer ended the lively “It’s My Life” with the line “this is my life.”
Burdon cut loose and got playfully goofy on the encore of Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High” (which Burdon also recorded, in 1968), rolling his r’s, miming drums and letting his musicians take long solos.
On her first tour in five years, the 1990s country star is performing about 22 shows – during a break between shooting her cooking show and going on an arena tour with her husband Garth Brooks. That was one of many things she explained during her 1¾-hour performance at Mystic Lake Showroom.
Yearwood, whose sharp-featured face suggests Candice Bergen,was chatty, loose, spontaneous, casual (in dress and approach) and funny. She even told the 2,100 fans that she is funny. And then she showed them. Often.
She picked on a bearded fan wearing a Garth Brooks T-shirt, singing a song to him and complaining that the Garth depicted on the T looked mad. (Afterward, she posed for a photo with the fan and hugged his mother.) She told the inquiring audience that Garth was at home, with a casserole in the refrigerator.
Now 49, she talked about having hot flashes so she set up a Beyonce-like fan at her feet. Then she crouched down, sticking her face in the fan and announcing “That’s country twerking. That’s as close as it’s going to get.”
Yearwood also sang a generous helping of the songs that made her a country favorite in the 1990s. She even offered remarkably faithful renditions of three hits associated with Linda Ronstadt, her hero and inspiration. She threw in “Midnight Train to Georgia” (her home state) and answered requests for the ballad “On a Bus to St. Cloud” and the rocking “That’s What I Like About You” even though she warned upfront that she didn’t know all the words (she ad libbed lyrics like “because you make me dinner, give me massages and give me a loan”).
One of the best female voices in Nashville in the 1990s, she still sounded in good form, though she couldn’t quite find all those high notes on the power ballad “How Do I Live.” But the way she nailed the Ronstadt songs, sounded wistful on “A Song Remembers When” and crooned the whew-who’s on “Walkaway Joe” reminded fans how special Yearwood’s voice is.