Pier 6 acts promises a hummer of a summer

Neighbors of the Pier 6 Concert Pavilion will be able to sleep easily this summer. Because if the initial offerings in this year's Harborlights Music Festival are any indication, it's going to be quite a quiet summer on the Inner Harbor.

It's not that the Pavilion won't be busy. There are 21 shows scheduled thus far, stretching from a season-opening show with Kenny Loggins on May 26 to a blues package featuring B. B. King, Buddy Guy, Dr. John and the Fabulous Thunderbirds on Sept. 9. Moreover, further bookings are expected as the season progresses.


But with the emphasis firmly on light jazz, middle-of-the-road pop and country acts, it seems unlikely that anyone in the neighborhood will be complaining about the volume -- unless, of course, Wayne Newton (July 2) goes gonzo during his guitar solo.

Indeed, the shows posted so far are notable mostly for their conservatism. In addition to Newton, the MOR acts currently on the roster include crooner Johnny Mathis (July 31) and aging sex god Engelbert Humperdinck (Aug. 2), while Air Supply -- putatively a rock act, but soporific enough to suit any elevator operator -- will share a bill with Dan Hill (July 27).


Likewise, the jazz offerings -- though full of famous names -- tend toward the easily listenable. Saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. (June 27), for example, was making light, tuneful pop jazz albums long before anybody ever heard of Kenny G; George Benson (July 15), though certainly talented and tasteful, rarely seems to push the envelope in his performances; and big band leader Doc Severinsen -- who by that point will be retired from the "Tonight" show -- is more celebrated for his showmanship than soloing. As such, only the Michael Franks package slated for Aug. 20 promises anything in the way of excitement -- and then, largely due to the inclusion of fusion aces the Yellowjackets.

There is no rap or contemporary R&B; at all, although Sinbad, who was a scream when he opened for Luther Vandross in December, will hold forth Aug. 21.

As for rock 'n' roll (and we're using the term loosely, understand), the bookings include more oldies than goodies. The first is a '70s soul harmony package featuring the Dells, the Stylistics and the Chi-Lites on June 20; then we get Three Dog Night (Aug. 6) with the latest version of Blood, Sweat and Tears; Dion opens for the Everly Brothers three weeks later (Aug. 27); while Ray Charles -- a true classic -- proves he's the right one on Aug. 19.

Overall, if it's daring you want, country and folk are your best bets. Sure, some of them are fairly tame -- like Tanya Tucker (June 30), Charlie Daniels with Aaron Tippin (July 7) or perennial Pier 6 performers Peter, Paul and Mary (July 22) -- but others are quite cutting edge. Lyle Lovett, for instance, will bring his current band in on June 4 for what ought to be a memorable evening (particularly if he sings and explains his song "Baltimore"), while Wynonna Judd, who at the moment seems hotter even than Garth Brooks, is set for a July 18 show. And though he never earned the approbation he so richly deserves, fans of tuneful, intelligent songwriting will not want to miss John Prine's show on Aug. 13.

Tickets for these concerts go on sale Sunday when the Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts hosts an open house at the Pier 6 box office (Pier 6 and Pratt Street) from noon to 4 p.m. After that, they will be available from the box office and by calling TeleCharge at (401) 625-1400.