Don Barnes & the ‘Wild Eyed Southern Boy’s’ Rock Performing Arts Center
Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer
At nearly 69 years of age, and after more than 45 years of touring as the front man for .38 Special, Don Barnes shows no signs of slowing down. Barnes accompanied with long time .38 keyboardist Bobby Capps, and a trio of gifted backing musicians rocked the rafters off the North Charleston Performing Arts Center Thursday night (Aug 26).
Before a near sell out crowd eager to embrace the return of live music, Barnes and company delivered a southern rock soundtrack that went full throttle for 90 minutes. Among a select group of bands that brought southern rock to the forefront during the 1970’s and 80’s, .38 Special have always had a strong following, and with the original lead singer carrying on their tradition, taking in a .38 Special concert is energizing, and nothing short of ‘full throttle awesome’!
The guys set the tone for the evening kick-starting with ‘Rockin’ Into the Night’, the band’s debut 1979 single from the album of the same title, followed by the lesser known guitar laden track ‘Rough Housin’. Two songs into the concert Barnes said ‘this is the best party in Charleston on a Thursday night, and after the year we’ve had I need this, and I know you need this’. Jokingly Barnes added, ‘We had to re-schedule this Charleston date three times due to the pandemic. I kept my ticket, I’m glad you kept yours’.
After extending his appreciation for coming out to take part in the celebration and thanking fans for following the band all these years, he went right into ‘Back Where You Belong’ a Top 20 hit from 1984. Another well timed anthem, ‘Wild Eyed Southern Boys’ was well received the both male and female fans alike. The song (1981) from the album of the same title helped introduce the boys to the MTV generation.
Just settling in, they unleashed a medley of songs from 1980’s movies including ‘Back to Paradise’ (Revenge of the Nerds ’84), ‘Sound of Your Voice’, ‘Somebody Like You’, ‘Honky Tonk Dancer’, ‘Teacher, Teacher’ (Teachers in ’84), and ‘You Keep Runnin’ Away’. With Capps taking over the lead vocals the guys closed out the montage with their chart topping 1989 ballad ‘Second Chance’ before Barnes capped it off the musical roller coaster ride with ‘Like No Other Night’ a top 15 hit from the summer of 1986.
Diehard .38 Special followers may know Barnes recorded a solo album in 1989 that didn’t get released until 2017. Nonetheless Barnes offered up a couple tracks from the disc including the title cut ‘Ride the Storm’ and a cover version of Chicago’s ‘Feelin’ Stronger Every Day’, the latter a favorite of Barnes since he first heard it back in 1973. Both songs reflect a harder guitar infused southern rock sound, but fit Barnes’ impeccable vocal styling. I highly recommend adding ‘Ride the Storm’ to your album collection.
A guitar and keyboard solo was a raucous jump start to the second half of their show, throwing out the familiar ‘If I’d Been the One’, one of the three top 20 hits from 1983’s ‘Tour de Force’ album’. A 40 year veteran axe man, Jerry Riggs solos on guitar were mesmerizing and no doubt well received by fellow musicians in the crowd.
Putting his own spin on a lesser known tune by Australian pop group The Easybeats, Barnes wailed on their 1968 hit ‘Good Times’, following with gear jamming ‘Trooper With an Attitude’, from the 2001 comedy movie ‘Super Troopers’ soundtrack.
Gary Moffatt earned his well deserved solo, beating the drum kit feverishly with the help of a fine tuned light show, as .38 and Barnes were headed into the final stretch, picking back up with several fan favorites as well as a classic rock cover that appropriately fits .38 Special throughout the years.
A gifted guitar slinger and host, Barnes got the men in the crowd primed when he asked if guys had come to the show to show off their ‘Fantasy Girl’, focusing on one couple particularly. With light-hearted banter and the introduction out of the way, the band went right into the appropriately title song.
When your arsenal of songs speak for themselves, all you need is the music as well as great musicians to rock the stage. With only their signature logo as a lone backdrop .38 Special let a treasure trove of hit songs accompanied by a well timed light show grab all the attention. With that the band joined together front and center to once again thank loyal fans, they exited the stage, only to return for a flat out guitar rocking finale.
You could feel the excitement fill the auditorium as the guys made their way back in position. With Barnes inviting the crowd to sing along, it was apparent everyone knew every word to ‘Caught Up in You’. The 1982 hit song from ‘Special Forces’ helped establish .38 as an arena band. With Barnes sending out much love and appreciation between numbers, he introduced the next track ‘Chain Lightning’ as one of his favorite album cuts from the same album. The hauntingly ethereal song builds on guitar and drum snippets, and left hardcore .38 fans hungry for more.
Nearing the end, and the rock n’ roll energy at fever pitch, Barnes whetted the audience’s appetite once again with perhaps the band’s most recognizable song, the guitar rockin’ ‘Hold On Loosely’. The song reached No. 3 on the Billboard Rock Tracks chart, and No. 27 on the Billboard Top 40, and was the first ever .38 Special video shown on upstart MTV back in 1981. As the concert hall rocked many fans once more sang along to every word, soaking up all the rock n’ roll thunder .38 had to offer.
Don Barnes and .38 Special sent fans home with a grandiose send-off, putting their own spin on a 1970 top five hit from Creedence Clearwater Revival. After nearly 45 years on the road ‘Travellin’ Band’ seems to be the calling card for .38 Special, and in 2021 it was an epic way say they’re back!
Aside from the pandemic that sidelined almost every artist and band in 2020, .38 Special have been rockin’ into the night for over four decades. And if Thursday nights performance was an indicator of their stamina or fan appreciation, the ‘wild eyed southern boys’ will be rockin’ for many years to come. If you missed this one, I would sure as hell catch them when they schedule another tour stop in Charleston.
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