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Wilson goes to Liner Notes

Samueli Theater, Costa Mesa, Cal., October 11, 2018

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Rita Wilson took an unusual approach to supporting her solo album, "Bigger Picture." Rather than hog the spotlight, Wilson, better known for being an actress than a singer, shared the stage with three accomplished songwriters for a good old-fashioned guitar pull. She's calling these concerts "Liner Notes" because they introduce concert-goes to the writer credit names that appear on albums - or at least once appeared on physical music media. She spoke early on about being obsessed with learning about all the names listed on liner notes to her vinyl collection. Tonight, a few of those mysterious names (and some of their most famous songs) came to life.

The most unusual moment of the night arrived when Billy Steinberg picked up an acoustic guitar and sang his tender ballad, "Like A Virgin." It, of course, was a rather racy dance song once Madonna got ahold of it and transformed it into a hit. Steinberg also sang "I Touch Myself," a hit for Divinyls, which was equally edgy. Both songs sounded so unexpected coming out of the mouth of a little gray-haired man with just a guitar.

While Wilson performed the title track to her solo album, she mostly acted as a gracious host. Country music also well-represented this night, primarily by Darrell Brown, who performed "You'll Think of Me" (a hit for Keith Urban), "Why Don't We Just Dance" (a Josh Turner smash) and LeAnn Rimes' "Borrowed," which Brown had Wilson sing.

Although many of Lindy Robbins' songs have found homes on pop artists' albums, she sang her first big country hit, "Day Drunk," which was recorded by Morgan Evans. She also performed "Skyscraper," a pivotal recording for Demi Lovato, and the spiritual "Amen," which Andra Day tracked.

With its stage in the middle of this small hall, surrounded by tables, Samueli Theater was the perfectly appropriate venue for this type of showcase. The night was all about songs, and this appreciative audience enjoyed a rare chance to see the faces to many of today's most popular liner note names.