11 August 2000
Fillmore, Denver, CO
I'm only aware of three Fillmore Auditorium Theatres: Fillmore West (San Francisco), Fillmore East (New York), and Fillmore Central (Denver). The history behind the Denver Fillmore is apparently quite extensive. Before the show, I heard tell that the venue used to be a dance floor, a movie theatre, a night club, and even a grocery store.
This evening, it was beautiful ballroom with purple-lit chandeliers and large quantities of framed rock and roll posters from decades gone by.
I have wanted to see the Doobie Brothers for quite some time, but had missed several opportunities. Opening tonight's festivities was veteran rock band .38 Special.
I don't think I've ever seen an opening band upstage a headliner as forceably as I saw this evening. .38 was in great form, with Don Barnes working up a sweat on lead guitar and vocals, and Van Zant back on the road, healthy and happy. Making use of a setlist similar to their 12 September 1996 Concert at Denver's Grizzly Rose, .38 added the rockers "Fantasy Girl" and "Rough Housin'" to tonight's list. Keyboardist Bobby Capps took admirable lead vocal duties on their biggest hit, "Second Chance". Their current drummer, Gary Moffatt, is the most intimidating drummer I've ever seen--the band let Gary open their set with an impressive drum solo.
I managed to get a high five and four guitar picks from Barnes. .38 Special managed to get the biggest ovation of the evening from the audience. How can you follow that?
Onto the main act. This iteration of the Doobies featured original vocalists Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, bassist Tiran Porter and drummer Keith Knudsen, as well as later added guitarist John McFee. No Michael McDonald--this is the early 1970's California Country Boogie Brothers, not the late 1970's top 40 hitmakers.
Pushing their image as biker bar performers, the Doobies lit up the stage with an opening sound byte of a Harley Davidson, followed with "Rockin' Down The Highway". Next came their most recent hit, from 1991, "Dangerous", and "Jesus Is Just Alright". Patrick Simmons and John McFee then embarked on an acoustic guitar duet instrumental.
Next came my favorite selection of theirs, "South City Midnight Lady", featuring McFee on fine pedal steel. McFee even broke a string in the process. The band also resurrected "Another Park Another Sunday", a #32 hit from 1974.
Despite the absense of McDonald, Simmons signed up for lead vocal duties on "Takin' It To The Streets", along with his own "Black Water".
Then it came time for Johnston to unleash his trademark vocals on "Take Me In Your Arms", "Long Train Runnin'", "China Grove", and, most memorably, "Listen To The Music", which featured a brief lead vocal by Patrick Simmons' young son.
Noticably absent from the setlist were their 1989 Cycles singles, "Doctor" and "Need A Little Taste Of Love", which, by some accounts, are semi-clones of "China Grove", and "Listen To The Music", respectively.
Porter, the bass player, made almost continuous eye contact with a woman dancing next to me, and tossed her a towel at the end of the show.
The Doobie Brothers seemed unreserved and unpretentious in their style and delivery, and content with sticking with the sound that first made them famous. My hat's off to that approach.
[****] - Steven T.
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