Friday, December 18, 2020

Concert Review

Hold up ...

Did you just read that right???

A review of an actual CONCERT?!?!?

Yes, sir ...

FH Reader Rich Turner turns in this report of a .38 Special show he saw last week in Clearwater, Florida.  (No concerts here yet ... Covid numbers are still extremely high ... and even shows that were originally rescheduled for next April are still suspect as to whether they'll actually come off on time or not.)

But it IS good to know that SOMEBODY out there is enjoying live music again.  (Pollstar reported last weekend that revenue was down THIRTY BILLION DOLLARS due to all of the shows cancelled in 2020 ... the results of this pandemic have been absolutely devastating.)


Hey Kent,   
I would like to submit an actual honest to goodness recent concert review of a show my girl friend and I attended this past week. 
As you know ever since Covid hit last March, the concert scene has completely gone away. Shows were postponed and then postponed again with a lot being totally cancelled.
Going to concerts has been a big part of my life since I was 14 years old (I am 66 now) and I'm hoping it will continue to be for some years to come. So not being able to attend any kind of a major headlining act for the last nine months has been disappointing. 
Well, that finally all changed last Wednesday (December 9) here in Clearwater, Florida, when .38 Special were allowed to finally perform at Ruth Eckerd Hall. 
They were originally scheduled to play last May, then postponed to August, then postponed again to October.
Ruth Eckerd Hall is one of the major concert venues here in the Tampa Bay area and, like all other venues, they have been almost completely void of shows since March. They have had a few very small acoustic shows on an outside patio (for less than a 100 people) but no major act in their 2,130 seat auditorium since last March 8, when REO Speedwagon played to a sold-out crowd (which I also attended.)  Every show since then was either postponed or completely cancelled.  
The Governor of Florida in October said he was permitting all venues and restaurants to open at 100% ... however, to the best of my knowledge, no venues or restaurants have actually let that happen. Most venues have basically remained closed although some football stadiums are running at about 20%. Ruth Eckerd finally decided to hold their first show at what they claim was 50%. 
So what precautions did they follow to hold a safe environment for their patrons? 
They had everybody line up in three different lines (one for each entrance door.) They asked for social distancing between parties as we entered. Everybody's temperature was taken by some sort of scanner at each entrance. Then you were wanded one at a time (still maintaining six feet apart.) And, of course, everybody wore a mask. Your ticket or phone was scanned and then you were permitted to enter the lobby. 
Once you were seated, there were two empty seats between parties in your row and the seats in the row in front of you and behind you were also empty as they tried to create a zig-zag effect. I hope I explained that well. 
I am guessing that there were maybe 700-800 in attendance in an auditorium that would hold 2,130 at full capacity. There were people in seats all the way to the last row, so about 30% capacity would seem right. 
I can only speak for the men's room but every other urinal was closed off as was every other sink. The only area that beverages were sold was outside in two spots. Once your ticket was scanned you were allowed to go outside to purchase a drink through a different door connected to the lobby. You could also purchase t-shirts and other concert memorabilia there. 
I think that covers all the Covid precautions and I think Ruth Eckerd Hall did an excellent job in trying to make you feel safe. Anyway on with the show!
The opening act was a local band that go by the name of The Greg Billings Band. Billings has been playing in the Tampa Bay area since the '70s and he seems to be the go-to guy if you need a concert opener for your headline act. His band is top-notch as they have been playing together for many years but for me, his talkative concert schtick has grown quite tiresome. 
I did enjoy his band's original classic southern rock repertoire, so his 45 minutes went by fairly quickly. After missing concert music for so long, almost anything would have sounded good (well not rap.) 
A few minutes after 9:00, .38 Special hit the stage. 
I have seen this band probably at least ten times since the '80's and have always enjoyed their brand of melodic southern rock. I have noticed that in previous .38 Special shows over the last ten to fifteen years that lead singer Don Barnes' voice (in my opinion) has deteriorated slightly. NOT TONIGHT! His voice sounded strong, crisp and on-key beautifully. 
In some of my other reviews I have mentioned the device called auto-tuning that a lot of singers are using now and Barnes had to be using this. Ruth Eckerd has always been known for having an excellent sound system and tonight was no exception. In fact, the equipment that the band brought in to augment Ruth Eckerd's sound made for an incredible listening experience. I have seen probably 50 shows in  this venue since the 1980's and the sound has never been better than it was this night. This right there was the high point of the night for me!
For this concert, veteran .38 Special has never played a better show than the one I saw tonight. Led by Mr. Barnes, they went through the whole history of .38 Special songs. The concert set list was the same basic one they have been using for years but if something is working, why screw it up? 
From the opener, "Rockin' Into The Night," to the end with "Caught Up In You" and "Hold On Loosely," they played every song with enthusiasm and high-energy. You could tell they love what they are doing and obviously have missed playing to live audiences of late. They played close to two hours and over twenty songs. 
Barnes did make a few references about being glad to be playing again and how 2020 has been one screwed-up year, but for the most part, he let the band do the talking by their outstanding playing. 
Yes, I know a lot of people consider this version of .38 Special to not be much better than a tribute band because Don Barnes is the only original member, but for me, as long as he is in the band they are .38 Special. After all, he wrote most of the music and sings almost all the songs and plays second lead guitar. 
I would be remiss if I did not mention the excellent job that keyboard player Bobby Capps does singing "Second Chance." Let me mention also that .38 Special routinely during their shows plays an eight song medley of some lesser-known hits with each one being about one minute in length. But not tonight! They played the usual medley but instead, each song was played to their full original length. Loved this also! 
They have a new guitar player named Jerry Riggs. He joined the band near the end of 2018, replacing Danny Chauncey, and he fits right in with the .38 Special sound. You would think he had been in the band for years. 
A mention should be made of bass player Barry Dunaway (in the band since 2014), and drummer Gary Moffatt (with the band since 1997), too. Moffatt had, for me, what I consider the perfect drum solo (short but sweet.)  
To sum it all up, for the first concert that my girl friend Alice and I have seen since last March, we could not have enjoyed ourselves more. A surprisingly (for me) outstanding show in a well-prepared safe venue. 
It was great to be rockin' to live music again! I can't wait for more! 
-- Rich Turner
We've seen .38 Special a few times now and, after reading your review, I wanna see 'em again!!!  Sounds like you guys were definitely rockin' into the night!!!  
Thanks so much for sending ... it's inspiring to think that we all may be enjoying live shows again in the not too distant future.  (kk)
Rich also sent us a handful of photos from the show ...