Los Angeles Times, March 5, 1990 




Give Bob Welch points for not relying on '70s nostalgia to carry his performance Friday at Hamptons in Santa Ana. Though his frizzed hair and attire of leopard-pattern shirt, hippie vest and such made him look like he had come straight from shooting a K-Tel "Classic Rock" commercial, Welch's 17-song set yielded only one tune recognizable from his tenure with Fleetwood Mac or from his brief gasp of solo success in 1977-78.

Welch, it might be recalled, was the Pete Best of the '70s, the man who exited a group right before it found phenomenal success. The low spots of Welch's show Friday might have led some to presume that his departure from Fleetwood Mac in 1974 and its subsequent 1975 platinum-ization were cause-and-effect events.

But those few who saw the pre-mega Mac can attest that it could be a pretty wonderful outfit, and that in his four years with them front man Welch was in large part responsible for the group's solid song-crafting and musically adventurous performances.

While his show Friday steered clear of those memories, it also gave little of its own to remember. His set of new unreleased songs and late '70s obscurities such as "Outskirts" and "Hot Love, Cold World" had a bit of Welch's old pop lift to them. On several, he and his Arizona-based quartet sounded somewhat like the "What I Like About You" Romantics, with some post-Van Halen dive-bomb guitar thrown in for good measure.

But while pleasant enough in single doses, most of the songs became blurred by the lack of variation from one to the next. Only the new ballad "True Love" carried enough of Welch's old melodizing to make it memorable.

The songs might have found more distinction had Welch played more guitar. In his Mac days he was a deft, creative soloist. Friday he offered only a couple of modest solos, one on his Mac-era "Hypnotized" (a song performed twice, once with a " '90s" treatment), and he executed a dexterous dual-lead solo with guitarist Freddie Robinson on "Daddy's Little Cannibal." It fell to Robinson to do most of the solo work, and while his speed-demon runs held more melodic appeal than most of that school, it wasn't enough to give the songs some much-needed identity.

Welch's set received a polite response from the Hamptons audience, with only his oldie-laden encore generating much excitement. There, Welch turned his reedy voice to his late-'70s solo hits "Sentimental Lady" and "Ebony Eyes" and to a version of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac show-closer "Oh Well."

Show openers Baton Rouge were battin' zero when it came to offering anything that isn't already being done in rote fashion by 14,000 or so other aspiring hard-rock groups. They had hair. They had Marshall amps. They shook said hair, played quite a few loud notes and did the recently requisite anti-drug anthem and semi-acoustic pouty ballad. They looked good, but so does a corpse when the mortician is through with it.

"Look for us on MTV!" they yelled when leaving the stage; you can pretty much count on that.