My friend Tim had a 1965 Rambler Classic. That was living large for me because I did not have a car of my own at that time. We’re talking the early 1970s here. What was even cooler was Tim’s kick-ass eight track tape player in that car. We would ride around aimlessly for hours (when gasoline was 26.9 cents per gallon) and blast Grand Funk Railroad’s Live Album. That gem was in heavy rotation. Like a fantastic flashback,
I was in that Rambler last night when I experienced Mark Farner of GFR in concert. Although we have all aged, some less gracefully than others, I was transported back to a happier time. A time when you could let your freak flag fly and Grand Funk ruled the airwaves.
GFR was from Flint, Michigan (which hasn’t aged gracefully either). The band rocketed to stardom after their performance at the 1969 Atlanta Pop Festival. Mark mentioned that fact last night with a nod of appreciation to this Atlanta crowd. They soon played to packed arenas around the world. Farner on guitar and vocals became a rock Adonis. His long mane, his guitar god posing, and his flamboyance on stage was the GFR trademark long before there was a David Lee Roth.
The band broke up in 1976. Even Frank Zappa, who briefly produced GFR, couldn’t keep them together. The band members were involved in various projects and quick reunions such as the Bosnian benefit concerts. Farner continued as a solo Christian recording artist.
I don’t remember reading much about Farner or Grand Funk for many years until I received the Variety Playhouse email announcing this show. I was excited and contacted a couple friends. They were ambivalent about attending the show until I sent them a set list from a recent show in Annapolis. It was full of GFR classics. Now we were all onboard (intentional railroad reference).
The Variety was not sold out on this peachy late winter Sunday night in Little Five Points. Each empty seat represented an unfortunate fan who missed out on one foot-stompin’ action packed rock show. The opening act was Brother Hawk, four Atlanta dudes who put a modern take on blues rock. Check out their Trower cover on YouTube. One thing for certain – they were loud.
By the time Farner and band took the stage we were pumped, ready, and suffering partial hearing loss. They opened with their standard Are You Ready? and the crowd knew immediately that Farner’s guitar work and vocals were still in top form. What followed was a blitzkrieg of power ballads and blues rock that included most of my favorites. There was no TNUC, no Feelin’ Alright and no Mean Mistreater but no complaints from the crowd either. Farner is still in great physical shape, still dances like a young man and encouraged us, especially the men, to get on the floor and dance. He looks more like Woody Harrelson than Adonis now, and that’s OK because we all love Woody too.
Here’s how it went down :
Are You Ready?, Rock & Roll Soul, Footstompin’ Music, We’re An American Band, Heartbreaker, Paranoid, Shinin’ On, I Don’t Have To Sing The Blues, Time Machine, Creepin’, Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother, Bad Time, The Loco-Motion, Some Kind Of Wonderful. Encores – Inside Looking Out, I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home).
There was a drum solo between the main set and the encores, then all of the band members joined in with percussion instruments. Between the two encore songs Farner enlightened us about his near-death experience and his cardiac pacemaker placement. Then he launched a lengthy sermon that went just a little too long, but I’m Your Captain was the long version and we quickly resumed concert mode. He dedicated that last song to our troops serving our country. Total time on stage – an hour and forty five minutes. Farner stayed after the show to sign autographs. A real stand up guy.
Thanks to Ed for telling me that Inside Looking Out is a cover of the Animals song. I didn’t know that. Everyone in the audience knew the nickel bag lyric, though, and shouted it at the appropriate time.
The Atlanta Pop Festival poster image rights are reserved by Lance Bragg and is used here in a non-commercial context. Thank you.
Until the next concert, it’s time for my boot heels to be wanderin’.