38 Special's return to Penn's Peak saw the veteran Southern rockers firing on all cylinders.
The latest stop on the band's 2010 Wild-Eyed and Live Tour attracted a sold-out crowd to The Peak Saturday night, and Donnie Van Zant and company did not disappoint.
Taking the stage with the rocking anthem "Rockin' Into the Night", 38 Special grabbed the throttle and kept the pedal to the metal during a hit-filled 87 minute set.
The band has a truckload of hits in its repetoire and could easily coast on them, but one of 38 Special's virtues is that its doesn't mail it in, performance-wise. One would expect no less from a Southern sextet fronted by a Van Zant brother, as Donnie and his siblings (the late Ronnie and Johnny have both been lead vocalist for Lynyrd Skynyrd) demonstrate.
Donnie's antics on stage, as he swings his mike stand and pumps up the crowd, brings an electric presence that helps energize the rest of the band.
While 38 Special still maintains the Southern rock banner, its not-so secret weapon has been its ability to come up with catchy, hook-filled guitar-driven songs that have a timeless quality to them, which is why many of them still stick to Classic Rock playlists to this day. When guitarist-singer Don Barnes announces that the band's taking a trip back to 1984 and then plays "If I'd Been the One", it's almost something of a shock to realize the song is over a quarter-century old.
38 Special keeps it tight with Barnes and guitarist Danny Chauncey trading licks, letting loose on the codas of hits like "Fantasy Girl" and "Caught Up in You" to hammer their points home.
The shuffle of "Wild-Eyed Southern Boys" and a Southern stomper like "20th Century Fox" provide a nice contrast to more mainstream rock-pop hits like "Back Where You Belong". In fact, 38 Special has to resort to a medley to cram in all of its hits, including soundtrack favorites "Back to Paradise" and "Teacher Teacher", although keyboardist Bobby Capps takes the lead vocals on "Second Chance" as a worthy change of pace.
Other snippets showcased in the hit medley were "Somebody Like You", "Rough housin'', "Stone Cold Believer" and "Like No Other Night".
In the "What Have You Done For Us Lately Department", 38 Special dipped into its most recent studio album, the hard-edged Drivetrain, for the rollicking "Trooper With An Attitude" and the politically-charged "The Squeeze".
The band managed to sneak in a rendition of "Help Somebody", the country hit that Donnie and Johnny Van Zant scored in 2006 under the Van Zant heading.
The encore featured a dramatic "Chain Lightning", complete with smoke and strobe light flashes, leading into the signature hit "Hold On Loosely", which had the fans out of their seats.
The band wasn't done yet and kept cranking ahead, letting down its hair on fun-filled covers of Chuck Berry's "Back to the USA" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Travelin' Band."
Lehigh Valley up and comers Scott Marshall and the Hillbilly Souls opened the evening with a fine set of acoustic originals from its upcoming release on Soul Shaker Records.