Actor Dennis Quaid apparently is earnest about establishing a side career for himself as a purveyor of roots rock, but on Monday at Club Postnuclear in Laguna Beach, his singing wasn’t even up to the yeomanly standard of hundreds of roots-rockers who eke out livings in obscure dives across the land--let alone the caliber of Jerry Lee Lewis, whom Quaid portrays in the upcoming movie “Great Balls of Fire.”
Fronting the Eclectics, a first-rate collection of Los Angeles players that includes three members of Bonnie Raitt’s touring band, Quaid showed off a wide-ranging taste for roots-music forms and a hearty sense of enjoyment in playing them. But in front of a capacity, overwhelmingly female crowd, he didn’t do a professional job of performing the music he enjoys, nor did he cut an especially confident or charismatic figure.
Maybe this was just a bad night for him, but Quaid’s hoarse, scratchy, tuneless voice was far from big, and never easy. His singing was serviceable on rowdy zydeco and blues numbers that let him get by with belting rather than singing. But on ballads requiring nuance, range and control, he could offer only more belting.
Thanks to Quaid’s band, there was some musical fun along with the celebrity-worship. Quaid--who played nondescript piano and rhythm guitar--sang about two-thirds of the songs in the 80-minute set, leaving some vocals in more capable hands. Raitt herself sat in for two songs, contributing classy slide guitar and harmony vocals.
The Eclectics expertly handled Cajun and zydeco, rolling New Orleans R&B;, Chuck Berry-style rock and straight blues, and came up with a zesty garage-rock finale. But attempts at Latin-tinged cabaret music and lounge balladry moved beyond the eclectic into the pointlessly eccentric.