Atlantic City, NJ
Kalispell, MT

One of the hardest working bands on the road today has got to be 38 Special. Pollstar has them touring some 200 dates a year playing coast to coast, Europe and all points in-between. The Cutting Edge was able to check out a couple of their dates in two radically different locals. The band is tremendously agile seamlessly adapting to their environment. Penning a set list that spans 25 years, the Jacksonville, Florida natives have the unique ability to play two solid hours made up of all top-40 hits one right after the other. Though their pedigree has them listed in the Southern Rock band category they are more akin to Night Ranger, Foreigner or Journey. Their songs are superbly crafted pop rock with a tinge of country swagger - but not much.

Atlantic City had them playing at the large hall of the Trump Marina. The show sold well and was able to accommodate their rather large light show. As always their sound was pristine and the boys were knocking each song into the pocket. The only problem with seeing a show this well done is the lack of spontaneity. Every movement look choreographed, every note picture perfect - straight off the record. Donnie Van Zant does his little sprint across the stage all night but other than that it was carbon copied 38. Maybe that's what casino fans want to see in their band but for us it lacked vitality.

However, that all changed in Montana. Kalispell featured the band in the newly built North Star Arena. Between bull riding and cow roping shows they book musical acts. Tonight's crowd was drunk, load and obnoxious. The lights went down to a center spot light focused on the bands logo - then the thundering sound of a Harley revving up cracked the darkness. Blam! The band was right there in your face. Their set followed the Atlantic City show to a tea - but this time they were a live band, full of energy and playing like demons.

The guitar hanging over his shoulders plays down Don Barnes' outlaw image. His voice has a gruff smoothness to it dangerous yet accepting. He really is the star of the band. Barnes writes all the hit songs, and sings them with all the delivery of a bonified rock star. Van Zant has his moments, but Barnes is easily the star of this band, both vocally and on guitar. The six-piece rip into "Rockin’ Into the Night" and "Twentieth Century Fox." full throttle. Barnes is joined by, lead vocalist/guitarist Donnie Van Zant, bassist Larry Junstrom, guitarist Danny Chauncey (Billy Satellite), keyboardist Bobby Capps and drummer Gary Moffatt. California-born Chauncey’s been around since 1988’s Rock and Roll Strategy, while Capps and Moffatt are seasoned touring pros who have beefed up the group’s sound in the past five years.

The hits run together to complete congruity - "Back Where You Belong", "Wild Eyed Southern Boys", "If I’d Been the One", "Rebel to Rebel", "Fantasy Girl" and a new track off the Supertrooper soundtrack, "Trooper With an Attitude." Remember it was soundtracks that put 38 in a whole new league - some are highlighted in the medley following which included "Back to Paradise", "Somebody Like You", "Teacher, Teacher" and "Rough Housin’. Other highlights were “The Squeeze,” a rare b-side that was released as a cassette single in 1995, “If It Will,” is Hank Williams Jr. song reworked and destined for a tribute album. The show was easily becoming a musical tour-de-force.

"Stone Cold Believer", "Like No Other Night" and the epic "Caught Up In You" all drove the momentum of the show on. The encore was a stormer, with “Chain Lightning” and “Hold on Loosely” leading into “Living in the USA” and a final romp through CCR’s “Traveling Band.” It was one of those nights that you wanted the band to play all night. The vibe was just right - this one was a scorcher.

38 Special - set list

Rockin’ Into the Night
Twentieth Century Fox
Back Where You Belong
Wild Eyed Southern Boys
The Squeeze
If I’d Been the One
Rebel to Rebel
If It Will
Fantasy Girl
Trooper With an Attitude
Medley: Back to Paradise, Somebody Like You, Teacher, Teacher, Rough Housin’,
Stone Cold Believer
Like No Other Night
Second Chance
Caught Up In You

Chain Lightning
Hold On Loosely
Living in the USA
Traveling Band