By Nick McCabe – Front Row Photo
Grand Funk Railroad (GFR) has been playing rock and roll since 1968 when Mark Farner, Don Brewer, and Mel Schacher came together to form a ‘power trio’ in the style of ‘Cream’ and ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience’. Three cold hungry kids playing music and living together in a cabin on Cape Cod finally said to hell with this. They changed management and through a course of fortunate encounters and hard work, within three years they became one of the most successful bands in rock and roll, even breaking ticket sales records set by The Beatles.
Fast forward forty five years and you have founding members Don Brewer and Mel Schacher, joined by Max Carl (.38 Special), Bruce Kulick (KISS), and long time GFR member Tim Cashion pounding out the classic Grand Funk Railroad hits from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s for us here in Reno. This was a nostalgic show for me because Grand Funk Railroad was an early concert experience of mine back in 1973 when I saw them from the nose bleed seats at the Oakland Coliseum. This time I was front and center.
They started off with a newer tune called Bottle Rocket that I didn’t recognize, but it was good. It had that 80’s rock and roll sound to it which is to be expected. Everybody displayed quality musicianship and the harmonies were perfect (sometimes four part harmonies). They satisfied the crowd with a set list filled with their hits.
After a few recognizable high points (Shinin’ On, Locomotion, Walk Like a Man) Don Brewer did a great drum solo that was followed by a percussion only number called ‘Thunder and Lighting’. At this point guitarist Bruce Kulick took the stage alone and played an inspiring ‘Hendrix-style’ rendition of the Star Spangled Banner with an American flag center stage. The high points for me were to come later in the show when they played ‘Some kind of Wonderful’ (the security guard in front of me was digging this one so much he was on the verge of abandoning his post), ‘I’m Your Captain’, and the encore, ‘We’re An American Band’.
From my vantage point Don Brewer is carrying this era of GFR. He had a lot of energy and charisma on stage. He also stepped up and volunteered to allow me to interview him a couple weeks before the show. Max Carl and Bruce Kulick put on good performances too, but Mel Schacher and Tim Cashion did little more than play their instruments. After forty five years of playing and thirty six years after first calling it quits, I think they have to put a little more energy into it if they want to keep the fans coming back for more. Put some coal in that locomotive and get this train running. Maybe an infusion of Mark Farner would give it a kick (but I think there may be some ‘issues’ there), but that’s just my opinion.
…and the beat goes on.
Nick McCabe can be reached at: email@example.com