.38 Special’s singer/guitarist Don Barnes might be the unsung hero of 2013’s summer concert season.
Performing without founding member Donnie Van Zant, Barnes led the band onto the Artpark stage equipped to handle any musical challenge standing in his way. It was in his eyes all night, a sense of resolve regarding his ability to carry the show into the Southern rock stratosphere without triggering reservations as to whether or not the band would excel minus a key ingredient.
With the opening gust of “Rockin’ Into the Night,” the Lewiston faithful were on their feet in rapture as the band kicked into a gear that would last for the next two hours.
Barnes sang brilliantly, summoned some furious guitar work, and caroused his way across the stage with a smile that let everyone in attendance know just how happy the guys were to be there. That exuberance never faded during their set, which impressively featured just about every song a .38 Special fan could ask for.
“Back Where You Belong,” “Fantasy Girl,” “Second Chance,” “Teacher Teacher,” “Caught Up in You,” “Hold on Loosely,” “Chain Lightnin’” etc.
You name it, they played it. In an era where bands wish they could assemble hits by the dozen, it’s fascinating to think about how many memorable songs .38 Special has at its disposal.
Rounding out the lineup were guitarist/vocalist Danny Chauncey, bassist Larry Junstrom, keyboardist/vocalist Bobby Capps, and drummer Gary Moffatt, all of whom contributed mightily to making the show an unforgettable one.
Perhaps the most noticeable element of the performance was how focused and eager to get down to business they all were, because, while Barnes did interact with the crowd a great deal, the show appeared to move along at a breakneck pace evidenced by the lack of downtime between songs.
They kept things rolling, and everyone loved them for it.
New York’s own Blue Oyster Cult opened the show with a brief burst of rock and roll muscle featuring radio staples “Godzilla,” “Burnin’ for You,” and “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper,” but the climax arrived in the form of an opus titled “Then Came the Last Days of May.”
Singer/guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser traded saucy licks with guitarist Richie Castellano for a spell that was probably lost on those waiting to hear the hits, but it was a masterful display nonetheless.
Because it wasn’t my first time seeing them, the shortened slot didn’t bother me as much, but I could see how others could have come away disappointed.
Roeser and fellow founding member Eric Bloom still perform at an extremely high level and are singing better than they have in past years, so pairing them with .38 Special was a savvy move on the part of Artpark’s brass.
In a summer filled with choices, hopefully you made the right one and decided to come to Lewiston to experience this underrated twin bill in its entirety.