May 20, 2011 - 38 Special couldn’t lose their signature southern rock grit even if they tried. It must come natural from being one of the hardest working bands in the business over their 30 plus years of touring and recording. “Oh man, I love this job,” quipped co-frontman Don Barnes during a fiery guitar solo at Celebrate Virginia Live. For the Fredericksburg crowd on a Friday night, the band belted out their familiar hits with a spark that just won’t fade.
Some bands tour every other year, others once or twice a decade. 38 Special never stops touring – not even for one second. Keeping an aggressive schedule of about 100 gigs a year and mounting summer tours with the likes of Styx and Lynyrd Skynyrd, a fan would have had to try pretty hard not to find themselves at one of their recent shows. It has to be a challenge to spend so much time on the road and still put on an energetic show every single night, but that’s a challenge 38 Special is up for.
Although “Rockin’ into the Night” was a predictable opener, it’s exactly what a high energy song with a sing-a-long chorus is suited for. From the first note it’s clear Don Barnes still has the chops and he knows how to use them.
The 38 Special sound is unmistakable, but it’s Donnie VanZant who arrives with the attitude. Whizzing around on stage in his bright blue jacket, he jokingly shoves his bandmates out of the way when he’s ready to run out toward the crowd.
Other players include guitarist Danny Chauncey, keyboardist Bobby Capps, drummer Gary Moffatt, and original bassist Larry Junstrom, who quietly takes up his spot behind Barnes’ mic stand. The band has kept this lineup for nearly 15 years, which means the current version of 38 Special might just be the longest lasting unit to date. An untitled album is even on the way to stores in late August.
On their albums, 38 Special showcased pop sensibilities alongside their southern rock roots. Their live shows today are no exception. Along with heavier selections and newer material including “Trooper with an Attitude”, a medley of lesser heard material like “Teacher, Teacher” and “Somebody Like You” was a reminder of the band’s ability to write one strong melody after the next during the 1980s.
But they might have saved the best for last. A thick fog filled the stage for the start of the encore to fit the theme of “Chain Lightning”, and there was a gleam in Barnes’ eye as it came time to play the guitar riff to one of the most recognizable classic rock songs of all time – “Hold on Loosely”. It was almost like being in a time capsule during those moments when the audience was singing a chorus. The music industry is always changing, but there’s no stopping these wild eyed southern boys.