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Pop : Mixed Pop Grooves at Greek

August 29, 1994|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A few hours of charged, feel-good pop emerged at the Greek Theatre on Saturday, the latest stop on a summer tour teaming the neo-hippie rock of the Spin Doctors with the Gin Blossoms' emotional jangling and Cracker's wry Angst.

On the surface, the combination of acts might appear unworkable, particularly with the possibility of Cracker's edgier (though never mean-spirited) sound colliding with the Spin Doctors' softer groove. But the Blossoms bridged that gap with songs that were both warm and aggressive.

The energetic quintet from Tempe, Ariz., never stopped moving, bouncing, dancing and shaking their hair over their faces as they performed songs that were part Byrds, part modern rock. Robin Wilson made snapshots on stage with a Polaroid camera to toss to the crowd. And guitarists Scott Johnson and Jesse Valenzuela often burst through the good-time rhythms of such radio hits as "Hey Jealousy" with aggressive guitar work before submerging again.

Cracker leader and self-described shouter David Lowery returned from his own quartet's earlier set to share vocals on the Blossoms' "Keli Richards." Wearing a white 10-gallon hat and cowboy boots, Lowery paced maniacally to the borrowed lyrics, showing the same dramatic presence that's been at his disposal since his days in the '80s as part of Camper Van Beethoven.

The Spin Doctors can claim none of that focus, though such hits as "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" offer an infectious blend of jazzy groove pop. While much of the band's other material was hit-and-miss, Eric Shenkman's guitar work saved many of the songs from imploding into aimlessness, once even adding to the band's standard jingle-jangle by chopping out a chord ready enough for AC/DC.

Singer Christopher BarronCQ was otherwise preoccupied with his cartwheels, kicks and other awkward dance moves.

But whether the band was performing old songs or material from the new "Turn It Upside Down" album, the Spin Doctors were at their best when their efforts were anchored to a solid pop hook.

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