Review by John Jeffrey, Photos by Thomas S. Orwat, Jr.
.38 Special is one of those bands from the 1970’s that didn’t seem to really find mainstream commercial success until the 1980’s. The success didn’t last long for the group, but the 9,000 people who attended the 5th “First Niagara Tuesdays In The Park” free show at Artpark, seemed to enjoy reliving the 80’s, as .38 Special seemed pleasantly surprised to be playing in front of such a large audience.
They opened the evening with their top 40 hit, “Rockin’ into the Night,” which was soon followed by “Back Where You Belong” and “Wild Eye Southern Boys.” Midway through the set, the band broke into a long medley that featured “Stone Cold Believer,” “Back to Paradise,” “Somebody like You,” “Teacher, Teacher” and “Second Chance” (written by current Grand Funk Railroad member Max Carl). A highlight of the show was when they got to the tune “Fantasy Girl,” after the song was a stunning guitar solo, compliments of Don Barnes.
Donnie Vant Zant took center stage and performed “Rebel to Rebel,” as a tribute to his late brother, Ronnie Van Zant, the legendary lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The audience roared in approval. “Trooper with an Attitude” followed, and ended with an entertaining drum solo by Gary Moffatt. Afterwards, a couple was brought up on stage, and the dude got on his knees and proposed to his girlfriend. The woman seemed as equally shocked as the crowd, and after a few awkward moments, she said, “Yes.”
t was a tough act to follow, but the band cranked out another hit, “Caught Up In You,” and for an encore they did “Chain Lightning,” “Hold on Loosely” and then closed the evening with the CCR classic, “Traveling Band.” .38 Special comes across as a ‘Lynyrd Skynryd lite,’ but their sincerity and musicianship is heavy enough to keep the band content, with grinding out their southern pop rock to anyone who will listen.
for more on .38 Special, go to www.38special.com