Words by Joy Houle, Photos by Jim ‘JT’ Gilbert
When .38 Special performed at Turning Stone’s Showroom on November 14, I remembered what made them great when their songs aired on the radio in the 1980’s. Their heartfelt lyrics powered by strong vocals on top of plain-old, good-quality Southern style rock is pretty much the definition of .38 Special. No surprises there – they lived up to expectations.
What was surprising was the energy that went into their performance. .38 Special was formed the same year I was born. So, when I see performers who were in their peak when I was an infant, I’m pretty impressed when they rock it out. These guys took very few breaks all night, and the music may have stopped two or three times at most during their set. The sound simply rolled, Southern style, from one song to another.
The other impressive thing was that these guys were happy on stage. More than once I saw a look of ecstasy on Don Barnes’ face during a particularly intense guitar riff. All the members of the band seemed to enjoy themselves; they offered genuine smiles to each other while performing and attempted sincere connections with the crowd. It was clear that the members of .38 Special were at home, at peace, and totally content on stage.
Although they are currently (and likely permanently) performing without founding member Donnie Van Zant, I still felt that their music was very much together: the band worked well off each other. True to Southern Rock, the lack of competing instruments and vocals makes everything just flow together.
As usual, the Showroom’s classy atmosphere allowed for great seating with a good view of the stage. This venue can handle a wide variety of performances, and while I love dramatic performances, what was refreshing about .38 Special was that their show was all about the music. I suppose that is what has kept this group together for 40 years.