Review: ‘Grand Funk Railroad’

Reunited after 20 years, Grand Funk Railroad locks themselves into their early '70s halcyon days, a period when their records and concert tickets were among the best-selling in the world. They even go so far as to dust off the old pointed-finger logo. This reunion effort is a wisely assembled greatest hits package that, for all its musical shortcomings, covers the band's spacey meanderings and goodtime boogie with considerable accuracy, going deep in pleasing a long-neglected fan core. Show was divided into two hourlong sets, the first performed as a trio and dedicated to the uptempo hits --- "Foot-Stompin' Music," "The Locomotion" and "We're an American Band" stoked by guest guitarist Slash grafting a few tricks of the '90s onto the GFR anthem. The addition of the Sarajevo Symphony Orchestra sent the focus to GFR's formative days, when five- to seven-minute songs were the norm, and off-kilter tempo shifts orchestrated by the still-fine drummer Don Brewer and bassist Mel Schacher stamped a singular identity on the band's work.

Execution of the second set was perfect and in many ways a more enjoyable exercise than any previous Grand Funk tour. Attempts to fortify the 8-track days with the energy that defined their top 40 hits loaded their shows with a whoop-it-up frenzy that could easily fall flat in the mid-’70s; here the intricacies of the original recordings are laid bare, none more stirring than the concert finale “Closer to Home/I’m Your Captain.”

Concert lacked any sense of progress for the band — no new songs, no reworked numbers, no obscurities — and that may eventually cut into the return appeal of the show. And for the band that was effectively at ground zero of the corporate rock movement, the evening was decidedly understated: A light show of green lasers was used with subtlety and staging was generally limited to Mark Farner pacing to and fro.

To some degree, shows in L.A. and New York are expected to pique some interest in getting the band signed. Group is reportedly planning to record over the next few weeks before touring Japan and Europe with a handful of U.S. dates in the summer; a Sept. 19 perf in Sarajevo with other artists, U2 headlining, is also on the boards.

Grand Funk Railroad

Greek Theater; 6,187 seats; $33 top


A benefit for the Bosnian Relief Fund presented by Nederlander Concerts.


Reviewed May 2, 1997.


Band: Mark Farner, Don Brewer , Mel Schacher, the Sarajevo Symphony Orchestra and the Vine Street Horns.
Guests: Slash, Billy Preston, Alto Reed.
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0


    Leave a Reply

    No Comments

    Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s

    More Music News from Variety