Modern rock may be dead by some extent, but classic rock lives on in the eyes of Grand Funk Railroad fans. Troves of concertgoers came out to the Kern County Fair in Bakersfield on Wednesday night (Sept 28th) to see the band rock the Budweiser Pavilion. Hundreds of fans, young and old, were in attendance singing along and dancing to some of the band’s greatest hits.
The group kicked off the show with “Bottle Rocket” and blazed through a hits heavy 75 minute set that included “Rock And Roll Soul,” “Shinin’ On,” “Locomotion” “Some Kind Of Wonderful,” “I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home” and more before closing with “We’re An American Band.”
Grand Funk Railroad is the ultimate “American Band” which they proved to the modest Bakersfield crowd. The band still knows how to rock after 47 years. I was in the front row and could feel my heart pulsating with every bass drum beat. It was loud and very well mixed. The lighting was excellent with an array of colors filling the stage.
All five members were more vibrant than ever. Founding member and drummer Don Brewer knows how to throw down beats and keep the fans on their feet. He came from behind his drum kit numerous times to get the crowd rocking. Brewer also did a fantastic drum solo that lasted nearly ten minutes and had fans cheering for more. He brought out the American flag and placed it front and center while former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulich played the Star Spangled Banner mid-show.
This version of the band — also featuring founding member and bassist Mel Schacher, former 38 Special vocalist Max Carl and keyboardist Tim Cashion — who’s played with Bob Seger and Robert Palmer — has been touring together for 17 years. Their time together shows as they were as super tight and polished throughout the night. Each member knows how to work the stage and crowd. They were all smiles throughout, especially Brewer who seems to have the most fun on stage.
I understand why Brewer calls Carl “one of the last blue-eyed soul singers on the planet.” That man hit many notes that are unreachable by other singers his age, including women. He was on par with his vocals and even showed off his guitar and harmonica skills on a few songs. He and Kulick often played double lead which was reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers.
A highlight of the night came directly after Brewer’s solo when each member played percussion on “Lightnin’ And Thunder,” a newer song they’ve been performing live. Brewer was on the kit while Carl sang and played a bass drum with mallets. Kulich played tambourine, Schacher played a Latin drum and Cashion played congas. The song was very unique and interesting and was a hit with the crowd.
The band seems to have embraced a tad bit of electronica. The lone programming moment of the night came during “Some Kind Of Wonderful” which saw Brewer up front clicking his sticks and singing to the programmed beat. Midway through the song, he returned to the kit and they rocked it out with the crowd singing along on their feet.
The end of the set saw the band perform it’s epic ten minute hit, “I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home” as the crowd seemed to know every word and sang along joyously. The band even stopped singing briefly to take in the moment.
As expected, “We’re An American Band” ended the night to massive applause. Brewer sported a red, white and blue “Uncle Sam” hat as the group jammed out to what seemed to be the loudest number of the night. When they announced they had to leave after the song was over, the audience yelled “one more,” but they did not return for an encore.
This is my second time seeing Grand Funk Railroad live, but my first time seeing them with this incarnation. The first was with original founding member, guitarist and singer Mark Farner in 1997. For those who have never seen them live or want to see them again, they have tour dates lined up through July 2017. I highly recommend you see this band as they are very entertaining and have a slew of hits they perform.
Read my exclusive interview with Don Brewer about the show from September 17th.