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OVER THE WEEKEND

Dr. John and Bobby Blue Bland rocked the Majestic Theatre Friday night. Ted Nugent, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Deep Purple brought classic rock to Darien Lake Performing Arts Centre Sunday night.

Majestic Theatre:
Dr. John and Bobby Blue Bland
The lineup for Friday night's blues show had plenty of potential. The problem was in the execution, not by the bands -- professionals who went about their business as best they could -- but with the execrable, distorted sound that was coming out of the speakers and, judging by commentary by master bluesman Bobby "Blue" Bland, from the monitors as well.

Magic Dick and J(erome) Geils making a post-J. Geils Band go of it with Bluestime, a roots-oriented quintet, opened up the program with a fairly well-chosen selection of tunes drawn from the back catalog of the Blues Hall of Fame. The biggest hit of the set, however, was "Whammer Jammer," the harmonica showpiece that Magic Dick has been doing since the days of his old band and one that never ceases to amaze audiences.

The horn section for Bland's band is incredibly tight and, as anyone who saw his last appearance in Buffalo this year opening up for B.B. King can testify, the arrangements are surprisingly fulsome. Still, on this evening, the singer and his band kept shaking their heads about the sound problems, further sabotaged to some extent by the Majestic's rotating stage, which meant that, at any one time, a substantial portion of the audience was looking at the horn player's back and hearing a muted version of the powerful playing. The band soldiered on, however, and Bland delivered his early hits "Further On Up the Road," "St. James Infirmary" and "I Pity the Fool" with a great deal of class.

Although the sound problems persisted during Dr. John's set, his version of the New Orleans classic "Iko Iko" and the psychedelic gumbo of "Walk on Gilded Splinters" from his first album -- when he was billed as "The Night Tripper" -- were both delivered with aplomb. Material from his latest album, a tribute to Duke Ellington called "Duke Elegant," and a whole batch of other tunes skillfully combined to display a wide range of the man's artistic palette.

-- Garaud MacTaggart
Darien Lake:
Ted Nugent, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Deep Purple
Despite a set by Ted Nugent that smelled like rancid teen spirit, Deep Purple and Lynyrd Skynyrd tossed off anthem-seeking rock missiles that caught the imagination of a multigenerational crowd of amped-up, fist-pumping tyros. Nugent's playing was loud, abrasive and uninspired. And those were his good points.

Deep Purple, however, shook the house with 'Smoke on the Water' and 'Highway Star,' while Skynyrd stoked everyone's boogie shoes with 'Sweet Home Alabama' and 'Gimme Three Steps.' The Florida boogiemen also gave the crowd what it had come to hear, 'Free Bird' played live.

Purple's Ian Gillian, Roger Glover, Steve Morse and Jon Lord didn't take themselves too seriously and turned in crowd-pleasing versions of 'Hush' and 'Smoke on the Water.' Gillian's voice was in top form. Since he stopped dying his hair, trying to look 20 years younger, he now sounds 20 years younger.

Lord is a fearsome rock organist as his intro to 'Lazy' proved. Guitarist Morse created igloos of feedback and distortion during 'Smoke on the Water' while quoting snippets of Hendrix's version of 'All Along the Watchtower' and 'Day Tripper.'

But it was Lynyrd Skynyrd, the band with the tragic past, that had the crowd on its feet, lighters blazing. Autobiographical songs like 'Working for MCA,' 'That Smell' and 'What's Your Name' conveyed the working class aura the band has always projected. An edgy 'Gimme Back My Bullets' was also impressive.

Johnny Van Zandt's raspy voice did nothing to take the edge off of Skynyrd songs that have already entered the nation's collective DNA thanks to classic rock stations and MTV.

-- Jim Santella

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