38 Special Concert Review: As Tight As Ever


38 Special made a visit to Northeastern Ohio to share their traveling party and some really good music with their fans.  The fans got more than their moneys worth at the Packard Music Hall in Warren, as the Wild-Eyed Southern Boys delivered.  Don Barnes (left) and Donnie Van Zant (right) harmonized as well as anyone I have ever heard live.  The whole concert was very tight and proved that this band can still deliver in a big way.

Packed House Productions gets an attaboy for bringing such a big fish to the small pond.  The DeVengencie family, who runs the promotion, donated proceeds from the concert to charity and fans did not have to pay any service fees as they would when ordering tickets through Ticketmaster.


Having interviewed Barnes a few weeks ago, I was told that this band still had it.  I was promised that the concerts they play are a party and it is all about delivering for the fans.  I learned that there would be no auto tune gimmicks, no drum machines, no lip-synching, or visual distractions to cover bad sounding music.  Give Barnes credit for being an honest man.

Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers played a blistering set to open.  Grushecky was a solid choice to open because the music is pretty much in the same genre, hard-driven, blues-based rock and roll.


Once Grushecky and company wrapped up, John Batcho, aka Mr. Sports,hit the stage.  Batcho’s station, Y-103, did a really good job hyping the concert for the last several weeks.  Batcho got the honor of introducing the band.  A few minutes of introductory sound later, The first chord of Rockin’ Into The Night hit and the crowd erupted.  Right from the first note Barnes sang, it was obvious that the big sound was still there.  Van Zant harmonized through the chorus of that opening song, and people around me were all amazed at how much 38 Special still sounded like their recordings.

Barnes and Van Zant really share a role of being co-frontmen and both know how to work the crowd.  Danny Chauncey was also on the front line with the big guys and also participated in making sure his feet touched every section of the stage.  Bassist Larry Junstrom typifies a guy that is happier standing back and doing his thing.  Keyboard player, Bobby Capps, stepped forward and sang Second Chance, but otherwise was stationary because his instrument was immovable.  Drummer Gary Moffatt did a couple of fancy things, and I am sure he could have done more, but played his role as a consistent metronome, not missing a beat.


Anyone who saw the show can vouch that these guys are having a good time.  Van Zant was smiling all night (above) and seems like he enjoys himself.  Barnes just keeps busy.  Don’t get me wrong, he was having fun, or “big fun”, as he would call it, but he was switching guitars, singing, always playing, and still moving around.

The sound quality was fresh.  There were no feedback squeaks of horror or out of pitch lyrics.  For my money, a good sounding band that does not tinker with the arrangements and doesn’t have to move down a key because they can no longer hit those high notes is a band I will always pay to see. Barnes’ vocal range and consistency are amazing. I have always felt he has one of the most underrated voices in the music industry and his performance just backs up what I have been saying.


While talking to a “casual” fan at the concert in-between acts, he stated he was not sure he would know more than half of the songs, just the biggest hits.  After the concert, I sought him out to learn that he knew all but two.  The catalog that 38 Special offers is more vast than the casual fan realizes.

Before the concert, I got to meet the band.  When I told Barnes I was the guy who interviewed him a few weeks ago, he remembered my name, and for a few minutes, it felt like I was talking to a cousin who I only see every Christmas.  Guys like that are a dime a dozen in this industry and it is refreshing to know that five guys and their manager, Mark Rogers, were never too big for anybody who approached them at the meet and greet.  They signed anything put in front of them, took pictures, shook hands, and answered questions with everyone there.


After a solid two hour set, the band came back out for a three song encore featuring Hold On Loosely and covered Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s Travelin’ Band to close the show.  An appreciative audience gave a well-deserved ovation to the visitors from Florida on a job well done.

These guys are touring all Spring and well into Summer, they are a must see show if you like rock and roll played the way it should be, with heart and passion and unobstructed.  38 Special…. they never lost a thing.

Also, thanks to Ron Stevens who snapped some great pictures and to Craig Campbell who represents the band for the accessibility and courtesy.

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