The Doobie Brothers, still burning strong four decades later
PLAINS — The Doobie Brothers rocked a sold-out crowd at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Saturday night with a nice mixture of hits and album tracks highlighting its early-‘70s material.
Fronted by co-founding members Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, the 2015 incarnation of the band is an eight piece, complete with two drummers and a saxophone player.
The band took the stage with “Jesus Is Just Alright,” the band’s 1972 revival of a 1966 gospel tune by The Art Reynolds Singers (also recorded by The Byrds in 1969), treating the Keystone Grand Ballroom audience to some terrific five-part harmonies.
In a nice touch, the Doobies followed with the first song’s original B-side, “Rockin’ Down the Highway.”
Simmons, the only member included in every version of the band since its inception in 1970, then sang “Dependin’ on You,” his contribution to the Doobies’ most successful album, 1978’s four-time Grammy winner “Minute by Minute.”
“And the place is rockin’ tonight, ain’t that right,” Johnston said as Simmons led the group through the post-psychedelic acoustic number “Clear as the Driven Snow” from 1973’s “The Captain and Me.”
Johnston nudged a few people to their feet for 2010’s “World Gone Crazy,” then multi-instrumentalist John McFee played pedal steel for Simmons’ “Neal’s Fandango” from 1975’s “Stampede.”
The Doobies went all the way back to its 1971 self-titled debut for “Slippery St. Paul,” then Simmons sang 1973’s “South City Midnight Lady.” The band followed with two tunes from 1974’s “What Were Once Vices are Now Habits”: the Simmons-led “Spirit” and the Johnston-led “Eyes of Silver.”
A piano solo by Guy Allison led to the band’s only nod to its 1976-1982 Michael McDonald years – a great version of “Takin’ It to the Streets” with Simmons and bassist John Cowan sharing lead vocals.
The band returned to “Stampede” for its version of the Motown tune “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me),” then Johnston sang Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Don’t Start Me To Talkin’,” just as he did on the 1972 album “Toulouse Street.”
McFee played fiddle on a great version of the band’s first No. 1 hit, 1974’s “Black Water,” which had the entire crowd singing along.
The main set ended with Johnston’s “Long Train Runnin’,” the band’s first Top 10 hit from 1973,
which left the crowd on its feet clamoring for more.
Many in the crowd gathered around the stage for the three-song encore, which started with a fantastic “China Grove,” followed by “Road Angel” from the “Vices” album.
The Doobies then brought the evening to a close with “Listen to the Music,” the band’s first big hit that has gone on to be one of its most enduring classics.
If all you know of The Doobie Brothers is the lightly funky, jazzy pop tunes sung by McDonald, the band went a long way on Saturday to prove they are so much more.
Brad Patton has been reviewing concerts and writing about music for the Times Leader and Weekender for more than five years. He also hosts a two-hour radio show on 88.5 FM-WRKC (Radio King’s College) every Tuesday at 7 p.m.