Review/photos - John Jeffrey
Niagara Falls, ON - As a writer, covering a show by a 'heritage act,' especially in the case of Grand Funk Railroad - who have been performing pretty much the same set list for the better part of the last 2 decades - it can be somewhat tricky. While the show is always enjoyable, considering every time you see Grand Funk, you're always seeing, essentially, the SAME 'show,' you run the risk of repetition, when reviewing the concert.
One important thing you have to keep in mind, while I may have seen GRF perform a half a dozen times within the past 10 years or so, there are still people who have are witnessing the band for the first time ever, and the current lineup of Grand Funk Railroad, featuring Don Brewer (drums, vocals), Mel Schacher (bass), Max Carl (guitar, vocals), Bruce Kulick (lead guitar) and Tim Cashion (keyboards) are winning them over, like they first won me over, years ago.
When speaking with guitarist, Bruce Kulick, after the show, he reaffirmed my thoughts, as he stated from his perspective, "What keeps a set or set list of songs that are a staple of a show fresh, is always the crowd. We feed off their excitement of seeing the band perform. That's the fun of live gigs, this spontaneity of that relationship." So as monotonous as it may seem to play same dozen or so songs for 15 plus years, the pure happiness on the faces in the crowd makes it all worthwhile for GFR.
Any observer looking out into the crowd at a GFR show will always see music fans of all ages, but at the Fallsview Casino, last Saturday, a good portion of the sold-out crowd were of the elder variety,which is pretty typical of most casino shows. But age didn't matter for the crowd or the band, as drummer Don Brewer, who is nearing close to 70 years old himself, had enough energy to light up both sides of the Niagara Falls.
And while Tim Cashion holds down stage left, with Mel Schacher providing the "666 giga-tons" of bass (guitar), and Max Carl smiles, shimmies and slinks across the stage, it really is Bruce Kulick that dominates the stage with his 'rock and roll' presence. While you can take Bruce out of KISS, I don't think you can ever take the "KISS" out of Kulick, as throughout the 12 years he spent in the band, cultivating and honing in on what it's all about to be a rock and roll performer, it has helped make who Bruce Kulick is today.
Although the show started out a bit slow, with the crowd and band seeming a bit stiff, by the time they started cranking out their signature hits, "Some Kind of Wonderful" and "I'm Your Captain," the band was firing on all cylinders and the crowd was on their feet, loving every minute of it.
As the band rang out the last notes of "We're an American Band," it was like watching the closing credits of one of my favorite movies, while you know how it starts and you know how it ends, it's still a classic and a good time.
Thanks to Jennifer Murphy and Julius Giambelluca