In fact, McDonald has been enjoying a long overdue critical re-appraisal of late evidenced by his work with Thundercat, Solange Knowles and Mr Jukes. The Miami Vice soundtrack yacht rock feel to his songs retain the soulful, soft rockin’ funky swing that turned fans onto his music in the first place.
He’s clearly been inspired by touring a mix of original and favourite cover songs with his musical mates Donald Fagen and Boz Scaggs in recent years. And tonight’s solo show followed in a similar vein as he finished up a small tour of the UK in support of Wide Open, his first album of original material in eighteen years.
He delighted his ecstatic audience by opening with his monster hit Yah Mo B There. The band then followed up with the choppy, nimble-footed rhythm of Here To Love You. It’s one of a few songs taken from the Minute By Minute album recorded during McDonald’s successful stint in The Doobie Brothers that punctuated the evening’s setlist.
To emphasise that less is more, the sparse stage production served to focus all the attention on the classy musical interplay as the finely tuned band burst into life on sophisticated soft rockers Minute by Minute and What A Fool Believes. Guitarist Bernie Chiaravalle and the saxophone of Mark Douthit blended sweet licks over the swish rhythms provided by drummer Dan Needham and bassist Jacob Lowery.
These days there’s a snowy white smoothness to McDonald’s appearance that uncannily translates to his music. This extends to the silky tones of his wife Amy with whom he shared front of stage vocals on new song Hail Mary.
The mid-range rounded warmth of his trademark vocal proved to be as strong as ever, especially when Jackie Graham brought her own sweet soulful voice to duet on Baccarach/Bayer Sager tune On My Own. Originally a number one hit duet between McDonald and Patti La Belle, Graham’s vivacity held a magical sway over an entranced audience.
A satisfyingly smooth take on Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On paved the way for a gospel inflected version of Doobie Brother’s classic Takin’ It To The Streets. With Jackie Graham back on stage busting sharp moves and uplifting vocals with McDonald, the climax to this superfine rare showing had the word legend buzzing on everyone’s lips as they spilt out into London’s nightlife.