CAN AN ALBINO sing the blues?
"Yeeeeaaaahhhh!" screams Edgar Winter, whitest of rock stars. And in his bizarre assault on the senses Sunday night at the Orpheum, the younger Winter showed that he can handle jazz and rock and roll as well. For 90 minutes and three encores, his four-man band put on an audio-visual demonstration that left his rabid fans blinded, deafened and musically impressed.
The light show featured a reflected geodosic sphere, assorted strobes, police car lights and a multicolor remote control spotlight that ranged around the set and the audience, looming 20 feet above the stage. Visual affects climaxed during the 18-minute version of the AM hit "Frankenstein" when Winter released a heavy smoke screen of CO2 gas that enveloped the stage and choked front row spectators.
Boyish, 5'3" lead guitar Rick Derringer, who recently replaced less flamboyant Ronnie Montrose, provided a lot of the musical excitement. Clad in a skin-tight vinyl jumpsuit and wearing a red, white and blue sweat band around his left wrist, he danced and skittered about the stage, his legs braced wide like a defiant 14 year-old, a Donny Osmond on speed. Derringer has been waiting in the wings for some time now--since playing with the McCoys ("Hang on, Sloopy") he has worked with both Winters on several albums. Recently, he came out with his own solo album, "All American Boy," and Sunday he played two selections from it, "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" and "Teenage Love Affair."
THE MAIN ATTRACTION, of course, was Winter, a ghostly figure in silver-sparkled sneakers and knee pads to protect him during his stage acrobatics. Winter played keyboards, drums and sax with a vengeance, but the crowd reacted most to his haunting voice that can range from a mellow bass to a piercing shriek. Most of this show was shrieking, as Winter opened with his driving "Keep Playing That Rock and Roll" and went straight through to his last encore of "Undercover Man" without letting up.
Winter played none of his slower, more delicate songs, but instead used some old hits, more familiar and just as pulsating. Drummer Chuck Ruff stepped down to sing and dance "Hound Dog" and bass player Dan Hartman led "My Generation" as well as his own "Free Ride."
But the audience was not in a mood for mellow ballads--they came to be rocked, numbed and dazzled. Winter left no discontent.