I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw The Charlie Daniels Band set up shop at Riverwind Casino’s Showplace Theater Friday night. I’ve loved the CDB for as long as I can remember, with so many of those songs being that perfect blend of country, rock and attitude that fueled the mid-seventies radio playlists that provided a soundtrack for my formative music years. CDB is a band that made a mark on me early, and never really let go. But still, I didn’t know what to expect. Was this just going to be another nostalgia fueled show? Many of the country stars of my youth are still touring today, but I mean, c’mon, lets be honest here. Most of those shows are likely less than thrilling, and rely on that nostalgia to captivate. At 83 years old, what was I really expecting from Charlie Daniels? I was hopeful, but realistic. What happened is that an 83 year old man grabbed my attention, and put me in my place for sure.
Not only was it far from a nostalgia show, it was one of the best shows I saw the whole year. I turned 50 years old myself this weekend, and if I’m fortunate enough to make it to 83 I can only hope to have the intensity, drive and stamina that Daniels wielded in that theater Friday night. For two hours the man commanded the stage. He led and drove his talented band through extended jams, rendering hit after hit, and delivered powerful commentaries. The band is impeccable. One of the tightest outfits I’ve had the fortune of seeing. Comprised of Charlie Hayward on bass, Bruce Brown on guitar, Ron Gannaway on drums and Shannon Wickline on keys, the band has a lot of collective years under their belt as the CDB. But, unquestionably, it was the band’s namesake that made the show so special. Alternating between his trademark black fiddle and a beautiful gold top Les Paul, Daniels took no prisoners. The band kicked things off with “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye”, “Texas” and a blistering “Trudy”, and nearly immediately it was apparent Daniels and the band meant business. They weren’t playing around.
All the big radio hits were there. “Legend of Wooly Swamp,” “Long Haired Country Boy” and of course, “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” which encored and closed the evening. But, keep in mind, Daniels is still creating, and that was evident in the new song, “How We Roll”, which along with “In America” raised the patriotism level of the theater quite noticeably. Guitarist Bruce Brown took the lead vocals on “Blame It On The Blues” allowing Daniels a brief moment of rest, that merely saw him admiring the band proudly from behind a monitor. Make no mistake, this band can jam. That was never more obvious than in the intricate proceedings of “Saddle Tramp” and “Black Ice” which both really allowed the band to stretch things out and shine even more.
As the evening’s set wound down, Daniels never showed signs of slowing down himself. That energy remained constant through a rollicking version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and even the sobering “How Great Thou Art”. What a band, what a show, and what a legendary man Mr. Charlie Daniels is. It’s pretty special indeed when a band unexpectedly delivers everything you could have hoped for. Especially when that band has provided you with so much enjoyment over the years. Seeing the Charlie Daniels Band again was a real treat and one I’ll cherish for some time. Do yourself a favor and check them out next time they’re in your neck of the woods. I think you’ll be glad you did.