Posted On 9/30/2012
It was Saturday, August 25th, when Grand Funk Railroad returned to Nashville, TN to perform once again for the umpteenth time. Grand Funk hasn’t performed in Nashville since early in this century, but in the past they have thrilled their fans with concerts many times. With Mark Farner out of the picture these days, Max Carl on guitar /vocals and former KISS lead guitarist Bruce Kulick has filled the gap, and have done it very well. Mike Arnold, with special guest host, Concert Blast #1 fan, Vivian Johnson, were on hand to review this concert song by song and supply many live clips of this night for the podcast. Enjoy this Concert Review (audio podcast and written blog) and the special sing along at the end of the podcast with the original Concert Blast staff and GFR’s original drummer, Don Brewer!
Written by Mike Arnold
It was time for the annual Music City Bar-B-Que Festival in Nashville, TN which not only brought Bar-B-Que cook-off competitions, but also a lot of fun music throughout the entire weekend. The big headliner for Saturday night was one of my all-time favorite classic rockers, also known as “The American Band”, Grand Funk Railroad. Grand Funk has been touring with the same lineup for over ten years. This lineup does not include lead guitarist/vocalist Mark Farner, but two very talented performers were recruited to fill the void. Max Carl (who favors Mark Farner) now sings the Mark Farner vocals (as well as rhythm guitar, harmonica, and percussion at times) while Bruce Kulick, an excellent lead guitarist formerly with KISS, Meatloaf, and others, tackles the guitar work (and very well!).
The day started out beautiful with no rain in the forecast, but things changed in the early afternoon hours as a heavy down pour hit the Nashville, TN area, including downtown. By 4:00pm the rain stopped and the sun came back out to dry up the city. By the time I made my way downtown later that evening, the climate was wonderful!
The festival had music all day long, but not many paid attention to the performances, it was more or less background noise until closer to the time for the Saturday night headliner. Before Grand Funk Railroad took the stage, country music opener, The Springs, performed a set of originals and cover songs. While realizing the crowd was there to see the classic rock headliner, they won fans over by performing several new country and southern rock hits… and it worked as they were well received.
Before GFR took the stage, the founders of the festival walked out to say hello and thank all the volunteers and sponsors for making the festival possible. They introduced the local radio jock from Nashville’s Hippy Radio to get the crowd a little more ready for the show, but my guest host, Vivian Johnson, and I got the section we were in, up and ready a little more before the guys from the band took over the three to four thousand in attendance.
The sound of the intro music filled Riverfront Park as the crowd cheered in anticipation. The band members walked out one at a time. Keyboardist Tim Cashion walked out first to add to the intro music with his keyboard wizardry skills. Original bassist Mel Schacher walked out next. He picked up his bass and began joining in. Don Brewer came out and got the crowd a little more up and ready before walking up the steps to his drum riser. Don joined in with the music and then Max Carl and Bruce Kulick joined in on the fun before leading in on the opener of the show with a song from this century, “Bottle Rocket”. At the end of the somewhat unknown song, a voice was heard over the PA System, “Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s the group you’ve been waiting to see, Grand Funk Railroad!” The band then exploded into the extended live version intro of “Rock and Roll Soul”.
The band transitioned into classic favorite after classic favorite as they continued with onr of my all-time favorite songs, “Footstompin’ Music”. Max Carl asked the crowd, “Are ya’ll ready for some super-dynamite, Detroit city Rock and Roll Soul?” Then Don Brewer counted off for the GFR fan favorite, “Shinin’ On”.
Someone (probably Don Brewer) began a clap track to get the crowd clapping along to the remake hit, which later became a Grand Funk hit, “Locomotion”. As the show continued, Don Brewer showed of his very powerful vocal ability for another GFR favorite as he lead the vocals during “Walk Like A Man”. It was time for another song from this century as the band began the pop/rock song, “Sky High”. Without introducing the next song, the band began playing a softer tune, but it wasn’t a Grand Funk song at all. It was a .38 Special hit called, “Second Chance”. Some might have wondered, “Why is GFR playing this song?” Don mentioned afterward that Max Carl was he writer and singer of that multi-million selling hit. I never knew that until I heard Don mention this years earlier.
It was now time for the bandleader to take all drummers in the crowd (and those who listens to our podcast) to school. The 63-year-old Don Brewer began his drum solo that sparked many in the crowd to ask me how old he is. When I told them 63, the same response came from most everyone, “No Way!” My wife Sandra was there and asked me to find out what type of vitamins he takes. She added, “He needs to be the spokesperson for them!” The approximately ten minute solo was not boring at all. Don not only beat the fire out of the drums, but also played part of his solo on the rims as well as got the crowd involved with screams and feedback reply yells. It was incredible how fast he can move those sticks in the rhythm he provides! At the end of the drum break, the sweat drenched Don Brewer walked off the stage with the loud approval from the crowd as Max Carl and Tim Cashion took over the stage. Tim played bongos while Max sat at a bass drum playing a harmonica and sang with his blues/rock voice about having fun with his friends down in Nashville, TN on the Cumberland River. Max shifted the story about a girl he met walking down the road, as he said, “Looks like a Tennessee girl to me!” As the story continued he talked about how her eyes began to sparkle and her soul began to moan which sounded like “Lightning and Thunder!” This led into everyone joining on stage playing some type of percussion. Don was back on drums, Mel on the bongos, and Bruce on the tambourine. This also led into an upbeat drum/blues number called “The Devil Daughter Blues”.
Don Brewer ran down to the front/center section of the stage to setup a large American Flag on a stand while Bruce Kulick performs his unique rock version of “Star Spangled Banner”. This unique version (which was much better than Jimi Hendrix’s version) led into a guitar solo. At the end of the short solo, the band returned to the stage while Don counted down the next song with the hi-hat as the band performed an outstanding version of “Inside Looking Out”. The shinning parts of the song had to be the harmonica work from Max and the guitar work from Bruce. Don Brewer took the enthusiastic crowd up another notch by leading us in the sing-along, “Some Kind Of Wonderful”.
Tim Cashion stole the attention as he began playing a very familiar tune on the keyboards that everyone knew. Max began to sing the opening line, the crowd responded with much approval as the remainder of the band joined in on “I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home)”. This closed the set… That is until the band returned with the encore song that everyone was waiting to hear. Don Brewer led the band back to the stage and yells out, “God Bless America!” “We’re An American Band!” Which is the song they used to close out the night.
I always enjoy watching and listening to Grand Funk Railroad in concert. If there are GFR fans out there who has never seen this lineup before in concert, I highly suggest attending one of their shows. You’ll walk away saying they can pull it off without Mark Farner just fine. I gave this show a 9.5 (out of 10) on our Concert Blast Scale. The deduction is for having the same set list from the first time I saw this lineup back in 2003, 2005, and 2010. I like the songs they selected to play, it’s just time to re-arrange them in a different order. I would have added “Heartbreaker” in the middle of the set (cutting down on the blues story of Lightning and Thunder/The Devil’s Daughter section). I would have also added an extra encore song at the end to close the show. I believe they should add their old encore song to the list, their version of The Rolling Stones song, “Gimmie Shelter”. My special guest co-host, Vivian Johnson gave the show a rating of 10 because that is the maximum. Once I pressured her about the show being perfect, she admitted that they should perform more than one song on the encore. She said she would have liked to have heard “Heartbreaker”. So then she decided to change her rating and rate the show 9.999999999!
Written by Mike Arnold
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Tags: Bar-B-Que, Brue Kulick, concert blast, Don Brewer, festival, Grand Funk Railroad concert review, Max Carl, Mel Schacher, Mike Arnold, Music City, Nashville, podcast, Riverfront Park, Tim Cashion, TN, Vivian Johnson