This review was first posted on the Orange County Register Web site on Monday, August 10, 2009.
Three Dog Night plays safe, pleases fans at Pacific
The band delivered all of its '70s hits during a brief yet well-performed set.
By ROBERT KINSLER
Special to the Register
While Three Dog Night closed out the 2009 OC Super Fair's Summer Concert Series at the Pacific Amphitheatre (on Sunday night, Aug. 9, 2009) with plenty of sure-fire hits from the L.A. outfit's 1970s heyday, the show ultimately proved to be a mixed bag.
The group's modern-day lineup includes original lead vocalists Cory Wells and Danny Hutton (but not Chuck Negron), as well as keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon and guitarist Michael Allsup. In a set that stretched a mere 75 minutes, there were moments that rekindled the magic of classic gems (Harry Nilsson's "One," Hoyt Axton's country-styled "Never Been To Spain") and commercial hits that haven't dated nearly as well (Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me Not to Come" and the 1972 No. 1 "Black and White" penned by David Arkin and Earl Robinson).
The mix of things that worked well (the blending of soulful vocals courtesy of Wells and Hutton) and things that didn't (Allsup's extended lead guitar solo in "Liar") killed the kind of sweeping momentum that can make an oldies concert work.
One of the highlight moments in the show came outside of the parade of big hits, when Three Dog Night played several blues numbers. Performing "It Ain't Easy" and "Heart of Blues" (the latter being the sole newer song played this night), it seemed to be the one extended segment in the show where the musicians broke out of the well-rehearsed, Las Vegas-styled approach and connected more fully with the music. I thought the ensemble also delivered a strong version of the R&B-minded "Sure as I'm Sittin' Here" later in the set.
The good news for the crowd was that both Wells and Hutton – now both in their sixties – have strong voices that only occasionally strained at the top of their ranges. This was a crowd that wanted to enjoy the night of big hits, and without fail, Three Dog delivered.
So when Three Dog Night performed its encore, a joyous and upbeat "Joy to the World," it's not surprising that just about everybody was on their feet and singing "Jeremiah was a bullfrog" at the top of their lungs.
I would guess that Three Dog Night sticks to pretty much the same set list and similar approach at every show. Perhaps a release of new material might push Three Dog Night out of its oldies circuit comfort zone and get aging "Jeremiah" to recall what it was like to be a tadpole.