12 September 1996
Grizzly Rose, Thornton, CO
For the most part, I've always loved this group. "Caught Up In You" caught my attention in 1982. The vocal quality of Don Barnes, combined with full, metallic production quality generated hit after hit in the 1980s. When Don left the group temporarily in 1988, ironically, they scored their biggest hit ever with "Second Chance", but it just didn't match the sound I was used to.
I chose to see this concert under the condition that Barnes had returned to the fold. Back where he belongs, he's actually more impressive than ever. Also still with the band are bassist Larry Jundstrom, guitarist Jeff Carlisi, and, of course, co-lead singer Donnie Van Zant, brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd lead singers Ronnie and Johnnie Van Zant.
What better song to begin with than "20th Century Fox", and explosive rocker that showcases Barnes as an otherwise very underrated lead guitar player. Appropriate it was to begin with a song that traded lead vocals between Van Zant and Barnes. Next came their two top 20 singles from 1984, "Back Where You Belong", and "If I'd Been The One".
.38 Special is working on a new album on a small label, and from these sessions they extracted the Barnes-vocaled "Fade To Blue", a fast-paced song with promise and resemblance to sounds from their Tour De Force LP.
Apparently because of sheer hit quantity, the group decided to perform a melody of many of their mid-1980s hits: "Somebody Like You", "Teacher Teacher", "Back To Paradise", and even "Second Chance".
Nothing matches the profound quality of lyrics such as those from "Rockin Into The Night": "Found a sweet madonna with a bible in her hand--she's waiting, anticipating, well for someone to save her soul--well I ain't no new messiah, but I'm close enough for rock and roll".
Van Zant lit up the stage with mad dashes back and forth, along with javelin-like tosses of his microphone stand. He kept his cowboy hat on for the entire proceedings, much like his brothers.
Jeff Carlisi's bluesy lead guitar solos on songs such as "Like No Other Night" and "Hold On Loosely" matched his excellent performances on record. Larry Jundstrom's bass playing was so perfect it almost went unnoticed throughout the evening.
The evening finished with "Wild Eyed Southern Boys", their top 10 smash "Caught Up In You", and an outstanding cover of John Fogerty's "Traveling Band".
What impressed me the most about this band was their sheer friendliness, politeness, and inspiration. Sincere smiles, hand-shakes, and autographs from everyone in the band. Well worth the price of admission.
[****] - Steven T.
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