The Charlie Daniels Band at the NYCB Theatre
NYCB Theatre at Westbury
September 7, 2013
The show outside of the NYCB Theatre at Westbury was something to behold. The local fire department sent two trucks outfitted with retractable ladders and a huge American flag, which they proudly raised as a southern rock band was playing cover songs. Veterans proudly displaying their military affiliation, along with families who were tailgating, ate, drank and had a patriotic dance party. The party began in the early afternoon, well before special guests, the Marshall Tucker Band, took the stage and hours before the Charlie Daniels Band roared their way through a hits-filled set of southern-fried boogie woogie rock.
The actual show inside the venue began when local WBAB disc jockey, Fingers, strode across the stage and announced that veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project had asked him to present both bands with specially made banners thanking the groups for their work. Fingers then hung a banner off to the side of the drum set and stated that he'd present the other to the Charlie Daniels Band later in the evening. The disc jockey then tried to work the already boisterous crowd into even more of a frenzy by stating that the show was "Sold-out. There's going to be an ass in every damn seat tonight, so you're gonna have to dance in the aisles."
The Marshall Tucker Band played an integral part in establishing the southern rock genre in the early '70s. Its music was a blend of rock, rhythm and blues, jazz, country, and gospel. In the ensuing years, the band has continued to record and perform despite numerous line-up changes and could easily he headlining its own tour. However, on this night, it was the supporting act for Charlie Daniels. As such, it performed only six songs. The six songs were, in a word, a treat.
The group began the evening with the lights on, announcing to the sold-out venue's audience that it was dedicating the evening's performance to the Wounded Warrior Project. A very beautiful version of "This Ol' Cowboy" led off the evening, followed by Doug Gray addressing the crowd. Referencing the late Toy Caldwell, he said, "Toy wrote this after he left the band, but we've been doing it for a while." The band then performed "Midnight Promises Don't Mean A Thing" with lead vocals by guitarist Chris Hicks. The performance was rounded out by strong performances of "Fire On The Mountain," "Take The Highway" from the band's self-titled debut album (Capricorn, 1973) and "Asking Too Much Of You," featuring Gray on vocals backed only by the piano. The set ended with a fantastic sing-a-long version of the band's signature tune "Can't You See." When the last notes of the song faded, the band members took their bows and headed off stage.
After DJ Fingers again commandeered the stage and riled up the already rowdy multi-generational crowd filled with Millennials, Baby Boomers and the occasional Generation Xer, Charlie Daniels and his band strode confidently onto the stage. Daniels does not look like a man in his mid-seventies (unless one specifically take notice of his white Santa Claus beard). He talks and moves with the speed of a much younger man. If this wasn't well known, it became immediately evident when he took the stage. Carrying his electric violin and bow, Daniels' fingers flew across the frets of the tiny fiddle while his right arm moved back and forth like a well-oiled piston. For the uninitiated, during his storied career, Daniels has scored hits on rock, country and pop charts and was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2008. He has received numerous awards from the Academy of Country Music, the County Music Association, the Gospel Music Association and won a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance in 1979, for "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," (which over the years has had so much cross-over success that it is still a staple on rock, oldies and country radio stations).
The show began with a rousing version of "Redneck Fiddlin' Man" followed by "Drinkin' My Baby Goodbye." Dressed in a bright white button-down shirt with blue jeans and what was definitely one of the largest belt buckles ever made, Daniels ran through a number of bows (turning the horsehairs on each into nothing more than fuzz) during each song on which he played violin. His roadies are very well-trained; they were always ready with a fresh bow to help him effortlessly switched to a new one.
The world-class fiddle player is also a very nimble guitarist. For the "The Legend of Wooley Swamp," Daniels traded in his fiddle for a beautiful sunburst Gibson Les Paul guitar and the mythical tale about the miserly Lucius Clay who lived in an area of Wooley Swamp called Booger Woods. The audience was already so very into the performance that they sang along with Daniels from the first words through the ending lyric of "You can hear one old man laugh."
Daniels and the band then ripped through a set that included the Latin-flavored "El Toreador," "(What The World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks," "In America" (prior to which Daniels led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance) and "Simple Man." Daniels took a moment to catch his breath and announced that he'd gotten a special request "for a song we haven't done in a while." The band then played a perfect version of "Trudy" with these lyrics:
"Call up Trudy on the telephone
Send a letter in the mail
Tell her I'm hung up in Dallas
And they won't let me outta this jail"
Next up was the instrumental "Black Ice" (featuring impressive solos by each band member), after which a stool was brought out to Daniels, and no sooner had he sat down than the band and he launched into "Long Haired Country Boy" from 1974's Fire On The Mountain (Kama Sutra Records). Daniels told a poignant story about his early days in Nashville and how, at that time when he was struggling to make it in the music business, one person always offered encouragement and had a nice word. His tribute to the Johnny Cash version of "Folsom Prison Blues" would have done the Man In Black proud.
Sadly, neither group performed an encore. Judging from the crowd's reaction to the performanceswith the exception of a few complaints asking why didn't they play "Heard It In A Love Song" or what happened to "Still In Saigon," "Reflections" and "Saddle Tramp," it didn't matter. A good time was had by all.
[Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon].