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EVENING SAILS BY AS LETTERMEN GLIDE FROM TUNE TO TUNE

THE LETTERMEN in concert with the Utah Symphony, Kory Kasteanes conducting, Friday, Aug. 4, 8 p.m. at Abravanel Hall; Saturday, Aug. 5, 7:30 p.m. at Deer Valley; and Sunday, Aug. 6, 3:30 p.m. at Snowbird.

No doubt about it, boys and girls, the Lettermen can - and do - harmonize. The trio gave an exceptional performance Friday night at Abravanel Hall, gliding through two dozen ballads, soft-rock and show tunes, that had the packed audience oohing and ahhing - and remembering.

It was as if the group wanted the audience to remember those summer nights in the late '50s and pre-Vietnam '60s when teenagers cruised the boulevard - or State Street, locally - with the top down and the AM dial tuned to the local rock 'n' roll station. (You almost expected Wolfman Jack to bust in at any minute and wail about the s-l-o-w-ness of the numbers. He didn't, but he should've.)

The Utah Symphony provided backup after intermission, hardly pausing between numbers - and what numbers they were. The Lettermen eased smartly from number to number, each member taking a turn to showcase his own special songs and banter with the audience - sometimes IN the audience. If you were watching the stage, you also saw the trio taking turns with the water glasses, trying to cool off some of those notes that put a lot of strain on the vocal chords. After all, they've been doing this for 34 years now.

Despite some minor technical glitches - too much microphone reverberation at the beginning of the group's set and some missing spotlights as the soloists moved around the stage and the hall, if this was date-night, you got your money's worth. It was just as if you were in a convertible, hearing the songs loud and clear sometimes, and sometimes the wind just seemed to take the words away. But, hey, that's why they invented FM and CDs. Remember 45s?

The Utah Symphony started the evening with several '60-ish numbers - "Overture to Candide," then the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand." From there it was selections from the rock musical "Hair," the theme from "Star Trek" and concluding with a suite from "Camelot."

Conductor Kory Kasteanes remarked that they wanted to set a mood for the Lettermen as they were "busting on the scene" about the time all the symphony's selections were being played. Give the musicians a lot of credit: Most of them don't play a whole lot of rock 'n' roll, but, nonetheless, they make it look effortless.

Kasteanes surrendered the baton for the second half of the program to Michael Erickson, the Lettermen's conductor, who kept the musicians moving and improvising the numbers as time ran long and several changes were made on stage. But even with those minor distractions, it's hard to fault an evening of music that includes "More," "Put Your Head on My Shoulder," "Love is a Many Splendored Thing," "The Wind Beneath My Wing" and "I Believe."

Toss in a few Cole Porter songs, "I Get a Kick Out of You" and "Night and Day," and "Somewhere" and "Maria" from "West Side Story," and the evening just sailed by.

The program guide said the concert was to last two hours and 15 minutes, and the trio managed to eke it out just over that, which meant no encore, and that was disappointing.

But if you're into nostalgia - and some great old songs - including an introduction by the voice of a long-dead radio comedian - the Lettermen and the Utah Symphony is the ticket. And you have not one, but two more chances to see them before they glide out of town.