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(Live Review) GRAND FUNK RAILROAD - St. Charles, Il (4/11/24)


The Beard & Little Johnny

Good evening friends, fans, and followers. Tonight, the Beard is flying solo as he attends show number #20 and bands number #68-69 on our 2024 metal tour. Upon hearing that this evening’s show would be Grand Funk Railroad at the Arcada in St. Charles IL, my cohost Little Johnny snidely harrumphed “Another old man Beard band in a place where you got to stay in your seat? I pass.” “So be it little dude. Sometimes a show without your chaos is relaxing.”


Now, for those wondering who Grand Funk Railroad are, or perhaps you do know them and are just wondering what they have been up to, sit back and let the Beard catch you up. Grand Funk Railroad harkens back to the early 1970’s when Mark Farner, Don Brewer and Mel Schacher created an arena rock sound that would spawn six platinum records between 1970-1976. Starting with the mega-hit “I’m your Captain/ Closer to my Home” in 1970, Grand Funk proceeded to top the Beatles record by selling out Shea stadium in just 72 hours in 1971. (Ed: We're you one of those screaming girls in your youth, Beard?)


The bands huge initial success was derailed for a few years as a protracted legal battle played out between the band and their management ending in 1972 with the band keeping rights to the name, but management receiving royalties to all the published material up to that point. Securing musical veteran Todd Rundgren as producer, Grand Funk enjoyed their greatest commercial success in 1973-75 with releases of We’re an American Band (1973), Shining On (1974), and a double live album Caught in the Act (1975).


By 1976 though, tensions in the band forced a disbandment until 1981 when they tried again releasing What’s Funk (1981) to minimal market notice and ultimately broke up again for fifteen years until 1996. After another couple of years trying to get going, founding member Mark Farner left the band after being turned down on his request to be paid 50% (instead of 33.3%) of all revenue. Remaining original members Brewer & Schacher hired Max Carl (of 38. Special) and forged onward into the 2000’s surviving the last two plus decades on festivals, and small venue tours. Tonight, will be the Beard's first opportunity to see the old warhorses doing their thing. (Ed: Or as Little Johnny would say, "The old warhorse watching a bunch of ol' warhorses.")



First up were openers Voyage. If you follow the Beard's reviews, you may remember Voyage opened for Lou Gramm last year and in the Beard's opinion they were quite possibly one of the worst cover bands to play at a venue bigger than a bar. Upon hitting the stage this evening, they started with a hack job of Journey’s “Separate Ways,” (which is the direction this band should head). At this point I actually envied Little Johnny wherever he was. All I can come up with is that this band must have some childhood friendship with Arcada manager Ron Onesti because otherwise I have no idea how they get these gigs.


Onesti actually came out on stage three songs into their set to do his shill act wherein he promotes the venue and future shows. Once again, “three songs into the bands set, they stop so Ron Onesti can chat with the Arcada audience.” Tell me what that says about said band's value? The thing is Onesti’s five minutes were more entertaining than Voyage’s set.


It’s not that Voyage have no musical skill. As a guitarist, the singer is not bad and the rest of the band follows the beat, it is just that as an actual singer it seems like this guy won the bowling alley karaoke contest and the prize was getting to front Voyage. ‘Dream On’ was painful. On the high note he went up for approximately 3-seconds and lost it. I will not submit a grade because they are a cover band, however, if you really want to see what they’ve got, their tour schedule includes stops on 5/26/24 in Woodstock, IL (playing an afternoon set at Nikos bar & restaurant.) No grade cover band.


Headliners Grand Funk opened with ‘Rock n Roll Soul’ from 1972’s Phoenix (which I had never heard before). Max Carl had a surprisingly good voice and still the range to hit a high note. Song two was the rollicking blues based ‘Foot Stompin Music’ from E Pluribus Funk (1971). Once again, I had never heard it before, but with big keys by Tim Cashion, and strong guitar by Mark Chatfield, I enjoyed that one. The band is solid, and I like how they started, but, then again, following Voyage helped a lot too. The bar, (to sound better than the opener), was pretty low. Their set dragged a bit in the middle as I really did not know the songs ‘Shining On” or ‘Heartbreaker.’ They did a cover of Carole King's ‘Locomotion’ (which the crowd seemed to enjoy) and continued with ‘Walk like a Man’ and ‘Sky High’ before allowing Max Carl to cover his former band 38 Special’s song ‘Second Chance.’



One song, ‘Devil’s Daughter’ was done in Mississippi Fife and Drum style with every member of the band playing a distinctive style drum. That was interesting, but dragged on a bit. They then did a guitar solo version of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ I stood out of respect for my country, but Jimi Hendrix, Ted Nugent, and Kirk Hammet, can all rest easy as Chatfield was kind of sloppy. The free form guitar solo after it was better, but not anything amazing.


From there, Grand Funk went into The Animals' ‘Inside Looking Out’ which was turned into a long “give everybody a chance to solo” jam number. Now, admittedly the crowd seemed to enjoy this, and it did epitomize the spirit of the 1970’s jam style rock and roll that was going on then, so I am sure it triggered some memory banks from a crowd that by majority made the Beard appear young. Their follow up to the jam session was a cover of Soul Brother Six’s ‘Some Kind of Wonderful.’ This one got a huge crowd pop and a loud sing along.


Finally, it was time for the Grand Funk big money numbers, ‘I’m your Captain/Closer to my Home’ which again got a huge crowd pop. In fact, it did feel like “everyone” was singing with that one and it was clearly what people came to hear. Grand Funk did their encore with ‘We’re an American Band’ to appropriately send everyone home happy and satisfied. Once again for a band of five men, whose combined ages are 363, they presented a fun show, and I will accord an 85/100 hoping in thirteen years (when I am 70) that I might also still be as spry. Little Johnny missed out on an entertaining show.

This wraps up show twenty and bands sixty-eight and nine. We will be right back at it again this weekend, so stay tuned to The Mighty Decibel every Wednesday & Thursday for show reviews, tune into TIKTOK thebeard0728 for show videos and promotions, and friend or follow Mark McQueen on Facebook for all the non-metal material.

Until next time this is the Beard (without Little Johnny) saying ...

 Stay Heavy & Horns Up!!!


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