Bolton exudes sensitivity

MUSIC REVIEW

August 12, 1991|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

No sooner had Michael Bolton made his entrance at the Merriweather Post Pavilion Saturday night than the screaming began.

His fans -- most of them female, all of them frenzied -- knew they were in the presence of one of pop music's reigning sex gods, and they reacted accordingly. A few, in fact, seemed about to speak in tongues.

It wasn't Bolton's hunky good looks that got them going, though; not his long hair, his high cheekbones or even his broad-shouldered physique. Rather, it was his sensitivity that did it, his unabashed display of romantic vulnerability that had them screaming in their seats. From the set-opening anguish of "It's Only My Heart" to the near-operatic drama of "We're Not Makin' Love Anymore" (performed as a steamy duet with back-up singer Christina Nichols), Bolton invariably wore his heart on his sleeve -- or, at least, his microphone stand.

Yet his extravagant displays of emotional intensity left this listener utterly unmoved. Why? Because Bolton so consistently oversold his songs that the performance seemed but an exercise in hype and hyperbole. As a result, everything he sang seemed as pumped up as the Terminator.

Naturally, that didn't add much to the R&B chestnuts he covered; his "Dock of the Bay" sounded like the bay he had in mind was somewhere outside Las Vegas. But even his own material suffered. "I Found Someone" was given a performance that made Cher's rendition seem understated, while "How Can We Be Lovers" was so weighted with arena-rock cliches that it virtually collapsed under its own weight.

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