Seattle-based singer-songwriter Michael Tomlinson had a lot of nerve suggesting a relationship between his work and that of Beat Generation patron saint Jack Kerouac during a song introduction Saturday at the Universal Amphitheatre. The tone of cozy ambivalence that characterized this show bore virtually no resemblance to anything in Kerouac's legacy of full commitment and chance-taking.
Musically, the lanky, bearded singer and his seven-member backing outfit came off as a cross between Michael McDonald without the soul groundings, Dan Fogelberg without the legitimate folk roots and Kenny Loggins without his rock ambitions. Similarly, his subject matter is drawn generally from the standard granola rock litany of city-is-evil, nature-is-good, love-is-swell cliches. It was all quite slick and safe as milk--which may go some way in explaining why Tomlinson is a rising star with the mellow brigade (though the 6,000 seat amphitheater was only half-filled for the concert).
In contrast, opening act Eliza Gilkyson winningly countered the New Age consciousness of her coffee house folk-based songs (sometimes reminiscent of early Joni Mitchell) with an off-handedly satirical tone that good-naturedly mocked both her and much of the audience's hippie roots, as well as the Jungian themes of her new album, "Pilgrims."
The show also featured tedious jazzy New Age noodlings from a trio led by pianist Scott Cossu.