The occasion was the traditional ‘Blast Friday,’ Clearwater’s jubilant monthly street festival on Cleveland Street, located right outside the front doors of the historic Capitol Theatre. The event showcases concerts by legendary artists from classic rock to country music. The shows are free and managed by Ruth Eckerd Hall. Happening on the last Friday of every month … great food, beer, wine and beverages are available to purchase while restaurants on Cleveland Street stay open for business including outdoor dining. The event is sponsored by Bright House Networks.
The evening began with Tampa Bay’s own Stormbringer taking the stage. Stormbringer dazzled the enthusiastic crowd with cover favorites from Kansas, Styx, The Moody Blues, and numerous other classic rock acts. My personal favorite was their impeccable rendition of “Nights in White Satin.” From 1990-96 Stormbringer featured violinist/vocalist Robby Steinhardt of the progressive rock group Kansas. The band has also opened for countless legendary rock favorites. The Stormbringer lineup is… John Vasalakis (lead vocals), Rick Moon (guitar and vocals), Dana Newcomer (drums), Eddie Pecchio (bass guitar and vocals) and John Zahner (keyboards and vocals).
After their incredible set ….Grand Funk Railroad legend Mark Farner spiritedly took the stage accompanied by Stormbringer. The 65 year old Flint, Michigan native was remarkable as always. Farner opened his setlist with... “Are You Ready” (1969) from Grand Funk Railroad’s debut studio release On Time. Mark looked amazingly strong and fit and his vocals sublime. Mark had a pacemaker implanted in October of 2012. Farner persevered with his powerful and awe-inspiring set … “Rock & Roll Soul” (1972) from Phoenix their sixth studio album followed by an exhilarating rendition of … “Foot Stompin’ Music” (1971) from E Pluribus Funk, Grand Funk Railroad’s fifth studio album. The tune featured a dynamic keyboard performance by Farner. The ensuing anthem and Grand Funk’s signature classic… “We’re an American Band” (#1 Billboard hit in 1973) from the album with the shared title was brilliantly performed by Farner and Stormbringer.
The show entertainingly progressed with… “Aimless Lady” (1970) from the proverbial favorite Closer to Home album …“The Loco-motion” a Goffin/King penned arrangement performed by Grand Funk on the Shinin’ On release. “The Loco-motion” peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1974. Mark Farner performed several additional tracks from Closer to Home (1970) including “I Don’t Have to Sing the Blues”… the power rock ballad & concert favorite “Mean Mistreater” …and the hard / heavy rocker “Sins a Good Man’s Brother.”
Winding down a riveting and nostalgia evening … Farner performed two top ten favorites from the album All the Girls in the World Beware!!!(1974) … “Bad Time” and “Some Kind of Wonderful.”Also included in the set was the early Grand Funk Railroad heavy metal gem “Paranoid” (1969) from the Grand Funk album.
Mark Farner with Stormbringer concluded a beautiful evening in downtown Clearwater with perhaps Farner’s most recognized and cherished song… “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home).” If you close your eyes you could almost relive that magical concert event at Shea Stadium in 1971, when Grand Funk Railroad toppled The Beatles record for selling out Shea stadium.
Grand Funk disbanded in 1983. The band sold over 50-million records worldwide. In ’96 Grand Funk reunited briefly and toured with the original line-up of Mark, Don and Mel.
Mark Farner will be back in Clearwater, Florida performing at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Friday June 13th with the ‘Happy Together Tour’ starring The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie, Chuck Negron formerly of Three Dog Night, Mark Farner formerly of Grand Funk Railroad, Gary Lewis & The Playboys,and Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. For tickets visit [HERE] or call 727-791-7400 for more information.
Mark Farner official website
Mark Farner tour dates
Mark Farner on Facerbook
Mark Farner on Myspace
Stormbringer official website
Stormbringer on Facebook
Stormbringer tour dates
Very special thanks to Leisa Farner and Mark Bowsher
Coming up NEXT … My recent interview with Chris Thompson former lead singer and guitarist of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (“Blinded by the Light”)
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