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Non-Prog Concert Reviews

Grand Funk Railroad

Live in Beloit, WI, 2002

Review by Gary Hill

Rolling Stone Magazine may have branded Grand Funk Railroad as the worst band of all time, but you sure couldn't tell it by the reaction of this crowd. Guess that just goes to show just how much that magazine does not know. The fans in attendance on this particular night ate up all that GFR had to offer. I guess Rolling Stone should nibble on that.

Grand Funk may be missing the voice and guitar talents of Mark Farner, but they have replaced him with two people, and you really can't hear that he is missing. Bruce Kulick (of Kiss fame) fills in the guitar shoes with his very potent playing ability and excellent choice of sounds. Max Carl (formerly of 38 Special) takes over the vocal duties; most of the time sounding like a dead ringer for Farner. The overall result is a band that, the majority of the show, has the classic GFR sound wired, tight. Of course, the long time funk rhythm section of Mel Schacher and Don Brewer helps to achieve that.
     
All of that said, it should be noted that the band comes off the best when doing their older material. It seems as if the bass heavy sound of such songs as "Inside Looking Out" and "I'm Your Captain/Closer To Home" translates the best under the skills of this lineup. They did feature two new songs, and one of them had that classic GFR sound, working quite well. The other, a ballad, seemed to suffer from a "sounds like 30 other bands" syndrome. Another point where the band kind of lost me was during their performance of one of the songs Max Carl wrote with 38 Special. That band has always had a strong polished pop sound, but truly GFR is better than that. They could have included another classic in place of that one. Still, the show was far more high points than low, and the audience sang along with many of the hits. GFR predictably encored with "We're An American Band", closing the show on a high note. I would definitely see these guys again, but I think that they should stick to what they know and populate the show with more songs that reflect their individuality as a band.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

     
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