CONCERT REVIEW: Charlie Daniels makes up for Bret Michaels’ absence

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First Posted: 6/2/2014

Despite losing one of its headliners the night before, Friday’s concert at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza went off without a hitch.

After Bret Michaels, best known as the lead singer of Poison, was forced to cancel due to a sudden illness that shortened his performance Thursday night in New Hampshire, the Marshall Tucker Band and co-headliner the Charlie Daniels Band each extended their sets for the May 30 performance in Wilkes-Barre Township.

Daniels, now 78 and into his 56th year as an entertainer, did not disappoint. Bounding onto the stage with his fiddle in hand, he and his band launched directly into “Southern Boy,” with Daniels twirling his bow and showing off a little bit of fancy footwork that brought cheers from the crowd.

Next up was the jaunty “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye,” a No. 8 country hit from 1986, and “Tangled Up in Blue,” the night’s only selection from the CDB’s recent album-length tribute to Bob Dylan.

Much of the group’s 75-minute set was like a “Greatest Hits” album come to life as the band took spirited stomps through “The Legend of Wooley Swamp,” “Long Haired Country Boy” and “(What This World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks.”

Daniels, who played guitar for most of the evening, dedicated “In America” to all current service members and veterans and fired up the crowd by beginning the 1980 hit with a full recitation of “The Pledge of Allegiance.”

During a great rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” Daniels garnered plenty of cheers by changing the lyrics to, “I shot a man in Philly just to watch him die – he was a Dallas Cowboys fan.”

A long instrumental called “Black Ice” showed off the talents of the band — lead guitarist Bruce Brown, bassist Charlie Hayward (who has played with the CDB for 39 years), drummer Pat McDonald, keyboardist Shannon Wickline, and guitarist Chris Wormer — then Daniels returned and brought the crowd to its feet with an impassioned version of “How Great Thou Art.”

As Daniels retreated from the stage for a few moments of rest, Wormer played a knockout version of the “William Tell Overture” on his double-necked electric guitar.

Daniels then returned, fiddle again in hand, and led the band through an extended take on its most famous number, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” bringing the crowd to its feet once again with his still razor-sharp fiddling (the original version was a No. 1 country and No. 3 pop hit in 1979).

The Marshall Tucker Band, veterans of the 1970s Southern rock and country scene like Daniels (who played on many of the group’s early albums), opened Friday’s show with a fine 60-minute set of classics such as “This Ol’ Cowboy,” “Fire on the Mountain,” and “Heard It in a Love Song.”

Lead singer Doug Gray (the only original member of the MTB still on the road) sounded a bit weak-voiced at times but did a great job leading the other band members and the crowd through “Can’t You See.”

Guitarist Chris Hicks had both a vocal and musical showcase on “Dog Eat Dog World” and multi-instrumentalist Marcus James Henderson shone brightly on flute and lead vocals on “Take the Highway.”

Partial proceeds from Friday’s concert were donated to the 1st Lieutenant Michael J. Cleary Memorial Fund to aid local veterans.

Michaels took ill three songs into his performance Thursday night in Manchester, New Hampshire. According to a statement from his management, he was forced to leave the stage “due to complications involving insulin shock and severe low blood sugar, along with other conditions which doctors later determined included exhaustion/dehydration/fever and the noro flu virus.”