There weren't any superstar surprises at the benefit concert held Friday at the Wiltern Theatre for Countdown '87, an organization working to persuade "swing vote" congressmen to vote against aid to the Nicaraguan contras . Only singer Holly Near and actor Dennis Quaid (who introduced headliner Don Henley) were added to the advertised lineup.
Fortunately, there was also none of the smug speech making that often comes with such events, so the focus was on the mostly acoustic music. Short, sprightly sets by the Latin-oriented quartet Sabia, folk-rocker Peter Case, comedic screamer Bob Goldthwait, Near, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and concert organizer Bonnie Raitt varied in political content--and even when issues were raised, they weren't always related to the evening's theme. The hard-edged folk-blues of Case and Raitt were especially invigorating.
Henley finished the show backed by a four-piece drumless band that included ex-Eagle bassist Timothy Schmit, providing the concert's highlight--and slyest political commentary--with a lovely version of Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe." Henley dedicated the song, which features the line "Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried," to President Reagan, Lt. Col. Oliver North and former national security adviser Adm. John M. Poindexter.