Michael McDonald is credited for some of the best songs in the world (“What a Fool Believes,” “Takin it to the Streets,” Sweet Freedom”), incredible tunes that resonated for decades not only through the depth of the lyrics, but by the strength of his voice. The harmonies that we associate with the Doobie Brothers sound, the soulful bounce and the gradual transformation of McDonad’s 80’s solo output, couldn’t have been carried by anyone else. He still gets labeled as “yacht rock” despite having a decent range of sound in his catalog across soul, pop and the blues. But his most celebrated time will forever be regarded by the boomers who grew up with his music, and just around the time Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On was released in 1971.
The concert at Iroquois Amphitheater last night began with an unexpected opener, “Yah Mo B There,” the James Ingram co-written pop-soul hit of 1983, before leaning back to “Here to Love You” by the Doobies and his own “I Keep Forgettin’” that he prefaced with with a joke about memory loss (one for the boomers). But McDonald obviously takes care of himself at 66. For the last 10 years, he’s stayed recording and touring without releasing an album of new material until last year’s Wide Open. Those songs are well received, too, and he’ll play them with just as much unstaggering force.
McDonald sits close to the band from behind his black grand, a small group of six. During some mid-set performances of “Hail Mary,” Beautiful Child” and “Half Truth” he switched to guitar. It reminded me of seeing Billy Joel in concert and how instantly that moment felt more interesting — the piano guy plays guitar, who knew? But McDonald had recorded most of the new album’s demos on guitar, so I already knew that. The first set closed with the double Doobies: “Minute by Minute” and “What a Fool Believes.” Sixty seconds hardly passed before the band was back on stage going into the encore, with “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” by Aretha Franklin (who is currently in critical condition), Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” (a set staple) and the exit call to action, “Takin It to the Streets.”
Check out a few photos from the show taken by Marty Pearl below:
Michael McDonald continues the Wide Open Tour tonight in Detroit. If you missed it in Louisville last night, don’t sweat too hard, he’ll be in St. Louis and Knoxville, Tn. early September — he will also be at Nashville’s beautiful Ryman Auditorium in November (highly recommend). Check out the remaining tour dates here.
Lara Kinne is a music lover and writer that also writes for LEO Weekly. Follow her on twitter @dangerboobs.