Mandrell offers good music for a good cause at benefit

September 21, 1991|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Reviewing charity concerts can be awkward. No one wants to be a curmudgeon and pan such a show, but neither is it nice to give praise more for good intentions than good music.

Last night's Hard Travelers and Friends benefit for Cystic Fibrosis at the Merriweather Post Pavilion made worries unnecessary. With a bill topped by Barbara Mandrell and featuring a reunion appearance by the Starland Vocal Band, it would have been a laudable concert even if there hadn't been a worthy cause.

Take Mandrell's set as an example. Although she earned her reputation as a country singer -- indeed, as one of her hits puts it, she was "country when country wasn't cool" -- her concert act knows no such limits.

It featured a medley that ran from "Fast Lanes and Country Roads" to "Only a Lonely Heart Knows." But it also included rock and roll, R&B, gospel -- even rap and polka versions of "You Are My Sunshine."

After an opening set by the Hard Travelers, who organized the benefit, the Starland Vocal Band gave its first performance in a decade. Enough of favorites like "Afternoon Delight" got through to remind the crowd just how exceptional this quartet once was.

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