Robert Palmer's diverse works

August 26, 1991|By Bruce Britt | Bruce Britt,Los Angeles Daily News

Los Angeles -- WHEN SINGER Robert Palmer places "musician wanted" ads for his tours, the requirements must seem daunting to the average player. Whoever is audacious enough to appear at the audition must be capable of playing rock, rhythm & blues, world beat, reggae, pop and torchy jazz ballads. What's more, they must be able to sing backup vocals.

A wide-ranging repertoire performed by a crackerjack band is only a part of what makes Palmer's shows so special. The other is style. The singer, who will perform Thursday night at Pier Six Concert Pavilion, rarely takes to the road without a tasteful light show in tow, not to mention a wardrobe full of designer clothes straight from the pages of Gentlemen's Quarterly.

As is becoming his custom, Palmer delivered a stellar show at the Wiltern Theatre recently. The singer's fans contributed to the excitement. Though his chart-dominating days seem to have passed, Palmer still boasts a sizable teen following.

It seemed half the graduating class of 1991 occupied the balcony at the Wiltern Theatre show. The throng chanted school cheers at intermission, which was quite a peculiar sight and sound for an event as laid-back as a Palmer concert.

But when Palmer and his band took the stage and broke into a bTC locomotive rendition of the 1985 Power Station hit "Some Like It Hot," it became evident that this wasn't going to be a laid-back performance. Hysteria reigned as the singer belted out the hard-rock tune with soulful abandon.

"You Can't Get Enough of a Good Thing," a quirky tune that owed a lot to early 1980s new wave rock, followed. That smoothly segued into the funky "Happiness."

The show proceeded at this whiplash pace for more than 30 minutes -- no between-song pleasantries, no instrument tune-ups and no delays. Indeed, Palmer seemed so wrapped up in the music that he actually forgot to greet his fans.

As the show sped to a close, the song list became even more diverse. There were lilting, Caribbean ballads, African juju music, a Beatlesque pop number.

Palmer's passion for rhythm and blues surfaced in the show's closing minutes. The singer delivered back-to-back interpretations of "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley," the Cherelle's "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," the Gap Band's "Early in the Morning" and the Marvin Gaye medley, "Mercy, Mercy Me/I Want You" with hard-rocking intensity.

The nearly two-hour performance was so well-paced and staged that it seemed to blur by in minutes. In this day of the multi-act concert ordeal, Palmer is keeping things short, sweet and to the point.

Tickets for Thursday night's 8 p.m. performance at Pier Six are still available. Reserved pavilion seats are $25 and lawn seats are $19.50. To order tickets, call Telecharge at 625-1400.

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