Stewart Copeland, the former drummer for the Police, and Stanley Clarke, a versatile and virtuosic bassist who helped pioneer jazz-rock fusion, came up with a refreshing response to the high expectations surrounding their new venture Wednesday when they brought their band Animal Logic to the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.
Unconcerned about matters of musical pedigree, Clarke and Copeland shared the animal enjoyment of hard-driving power rock, tempered by a sense of atmosphere and musical architecture that called for some brain work, too.
Abetted by Michael Thompson, a nimble session guitarist, Clarke and Copeland clearly had fun playing their bracing games of rhythm tag and follow-the-leader.
But a fourth Logician, Deborah Holland, spent the 80-minute set grappling uneasily with a more difficult problem: How does an unknown singer establish an identity while keeping company with renowned instrumentalists?
Holland had one advantage in trying to stake out turf of her own: She writes Animal Logic's songs. But most of the material was competent, unremarkable rock with anthem-like choruses aimed at the heart of the commercial mainstream. (Animal Logic's album so far has only been released overseas.)
One song, "Elijah," stood out on first hearing, as Holland's impressive keening conveyed a sense of mystery and longing.
But most of the time, for all the heat of her all-out belting and sustained vocal glides, Holland was unable to let feelings fly free.
If seasoning brings the singer into better balance with the players, Animal Logic should really make sense.