Michael McDonald delivers a powerful musical performance
Special to the Daily
Michael McDonald brought the Vilar Performing Arts Center crowd to its feet on Wednesday, movin’ and groovin’ to hits like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Takin’ it to the Streets.”
Even though the show began a little slow, the crowd still stood up to dance near the end.
His usual powerhouse voice sounded a bit tired and strained at times, particularly with opening songs such as “I Keep Forgettin’” and “Yah Mo Be There,” but vocal accompanist Drea Rheneé robustly compensated, while McDonald exuded profound feelings of the music through instrumentation and physical expressions.
By the fourth song, “Sweet Freedom,” he and the band seemed to hit their stride.
McDonald, who has spent more than 40 years in the music industry, proved he still has what it takes to belt out many of his deep, soulful songs. He plays the piano with true emotion and finesse with tunes like “Just Strong Enough” and his piano solo, “I Can Let Go Now.” By mid-show, with the exception of a couple high notes, McDonald’s voice came through with its visceral tones. Meanwhile, Rheneé continued to hit the mark and pump up the energy with her soaring vocals and vigor, which definitely stood up to Patti LaBelle’s during “On My Own,” a duet with McDonald.
McDonald’s band was equally powerful, with guitarist Bernie Chiaravalle, who’s been touring with the five-time Grammy-winner since 1988; Dan Needham, whom McDonald introduced as one of the best drummers he’s ever worked with; keyboardist Pat Coil, one of the great composers in the jazz world and beyond; and sax and keyboard player Mark Douthit, who has recorded with everyone from Elton John and Whitney Houston to Keith Urban and Hank Williams Jr. The newest band member, bassist Jacob Lowery, added to the soulful sound with his strong vocal accompaniments.
In addition to performing Doobie Brothers hits such as “Here to Love You,” “Minute by Minute” and “Takin’ it to the Streets,” McDonald interjected two of his songs from his last album, “Wide Open” (2017), including “Find it in Your Heart,” with its chorus lines such as, “Love’s the truth that sets us free.” He nailed the fine balance between changing up the arrangements of some tunes while delivering familiar hits just as listeners remember them.
McDonald’s deep soul especially hit home on duets with Rheneé, such as “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” and his encore featuring Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” the latter of which he introduced as a “beautiful prayer for peace,” encouraging the audience to “sing it loud if you will and maybe the world down there, down the mountain, will hear us singing these words tonight.”
Throughout his 75-minute show, McDonald and his band ultimately reminded people to feel the beat in their body and let their heart open to the profound power of love and music.