It was a very nice balmy Saturday night in Miami and I had arrived to the Magic City Casino to document a concert of one of the bands I wanted to see the most since my teen years in Cuba. Grand Funk Railroad, the American blues-rock band institution was making a tour stop at my city and that was a show I wasn’t missing for anything in this world. Additionally this would be my first photo assignment for Rock at Night, so I was doubled-pumped and ready to take some good shots and enjoy the spectacle.
Grand Funk Railroad was highly popular during the 1970s, touring extensively and playing to packed arenas worldwide with their crowd-pleasing arena rock style; and two original members drummer Don Brewer and bassist Mel Schacher re-established the band in 1996, joined by lead vocalist Max Carl (of 38 Special), former Kiss lead guitarist Bruce Kulick, and keyboardist Tim Cashion (Bob Seger, Robert Palmer). Despite the absence of Mark Farner, they remained touring and drawing thousands of fans to their shows and I was eager to see how much this line-up could honor the well-regarded anthems of the band’s heyday.
The show started exactly as scheduled and it was completely well worth it. The sound quality was phenomenal as usual at the venue and the band totally rocked the house. I was very surprised at the level of intensity they performed. Brewer and company sounded tight and loud–and the crowd reaction proved it. The audience sang, danced and enjoyed every minute of the performance. The band concentrated on their top 40 hits and most notable songs, while adding in a few surprises along the way, including the 38 Special song “Second Chance”. During the Hendrix-inspired “Star Spangled Banner”, which included an excellent guitar performance courtesy of Bruce Kulick, Don Brewer came to the front of the stage with a huge American flag. He then proceeded to play an awesome ear-popping, non-stop, no holds barred drum solo while everyone stood-up, cheered and applauded in frenzy.
Lead guitarist Bruce Kulick meshed perfectly and Max’s vocals, complemented by Don’s and rounded by Tim’s keyboard, sounded just like the GFR of old times that I’ve enjoyed in videos hundreds of times. Bruce is a great asset to the band. His playing brings a more current sound to the classic GFR songs. Don also sang, and his voice apparently hasn’t aged a bit. It was incredible to see the energy he has on stage, delivering also super energetic drumming and driving the band’s intensity ahead. The only real downside was they only played 75 minutes, and I also missed “Bad Time”, a song I’d have loved to hear. They encored with their signature song “We’re an American Band” before leaving for the evening, letting the audience clamoring for more.
Bottle Rocket / Rock & Roll Soul / Footstompin’ Music / Shinin’ On / The Loco-Motion (Carole King cover) / Walk Like a Man / Second Chance (38 Special cover) / Don Brewer Drum Solo / Lightning and Thunder / The Star-Spangled Banner (John Stafford Smith cover) / Inside Looking Out / Some Kind of Wonderful / I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)
We’re an American Band