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Music And Monologues From Vollenweider

October 01, 1986|DON HECKMAN

Does curly-haired Andreas Vollenweider look like an '80s version of Harpo Marx? Does his music ever use more than four chords? Did this listener's mind wander after the first five minutes of Vollenweider's concert Monday night at the Greek Theatre?

The answers, in order, are yes, rarely and frequently.

Vollenweider does have an adorably cherubic look as he encircles his amplified harp. But unlike Harpo, he talks . . . and talks and talks. His sweetly Swiss-accented parables about love and peace sound like unintended parodies of Victor Borge's fractured English routines.

Despite the monologues, however, Vollenweider never got around to announcing the titles of any of the numbers--not that it really mattered. Most of the pieces played by his percussion-and synthesizer-dominated sextet were familiar extracts from his albums, a melange of floating, drifting musical exotica.

Bits and pieces of Indian raga-like sound surfaced here and there, only to be replaced by a shred or two of Flamenco, a few impressionistic whole tone glissandos and a sprinkling of jazz fusion.

On the rare occasions when a burst of real energy broke through, it was provided not by Vollenweider's kaleidoscopic harp sounds, but by the powerful drum and percussion team of Walter Kaiser and John Otis.

Vollenweider's technical skills on what is at best an unwieldy instrument allow him to create one of the more unusual sounds in crossover pop-rock-fusion-new age music.

But what works well as background music doesn't necessarily hold up on the concert stage. Like the contemporary Muzak that it is, Vollenweider's music shifts too easily into the back of one's consciousness.

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