38 Special has been playing music since the mid-1970's, but on Friday night at Penn's Peak, the group played with the enthusiasm and spirit of a band new to the music scene.
38 Special has always been a band that has stayed true to their Southern rock roots while still offering commercial appeal, and their set demonstrated why they are able to still draw a crowd after three decades on stage.
Starting off with their 1979 hit "Rockin' Into the Night,"the band got the crowd on its feet and most in the audience remained standing, singing along as the band quickly went into their most well-known hits, from radio favorites "Back Where You Belong," "Fantasy Girl," "If I'd Been The One," and "Caught Up In You" to the rock anthems "Rough Housin'" and "Wild Eyed Southern Boys", songs that speak to their playfully rebellious side.
In between their hits from the late '70's and early '80's, the band played a quick medley of commercial favorites that earned them new pop fans in the mid-'80's.
They brought the crowd to their feet again with a few verses of "Back to Paradise", "Chain Lightning", "Teacher, Teacher", and "Second Chance", their biggest commercial hit that peaked at No. 6 on the album charts in 1990.
38 Special hasn't had a hit album in some time, but it was clear that they give their all during live shows and for these veterans, it's still all about the music.
Vocalists and band co-founders Don Barnes and Donnie VanZant handled both vocals and guitar admirably, with Barnes singing lead on more than half of the songs.
VanZant, younger brother of late Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Ronnie VanZant, was playing to the crowd and getting them on their feet when he wasn't supporting Barnes on vocals or accompanying fellow guitarist Danny Chauncey.
Decades of playing guitar haven't been lost on Barnes, who is also responsible for co-writing many of the band's biggest hits. He played with the same intensity and sense of fun that took many in the crowd back to the late 1970's.
As his bandmates left the stage, drummer Gary Moffatt commanded the stage with a stellar solo late in the set. Bassist Larry "L.J." Junstrom and keyboardist/vocalist Bobby Capps added tight playing and strong backing vocals throughout the entire set.
As an encore, the band ended the night with their mega-hit "Hold On Loosely", which brought even more folks out of their seats. Even after 35 years and over 100 shows a year, it is clear that 38 Special is one veteran band who plays with the same intensity and passion as a much younger band.
A trio of concerts are scheduled this weekend at the venue.
On Friday night, Rusted Root is on the stage at 8 p.m.
Saturday, there is a Journey Tribute with Voyage featuring Hugo, formerly of Evolution, with Special Guest Fleetwood Macked.
Sunday, Blues Traveler performs.
All three shows begin at 8 p.m.