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Jacksonville, Florida, 19 October 2005

If you love 70’s Rock and Roll then the Florida Theater was the place to be this week as the Doobie Brothers in their 4th decade played on Wednesday night.

On the final leg of their US tour of small venues before heading down under, this gig in North East Florida was a good time to catch their show. It’s always better to see a band who’s been on the road for awhile instead of out of the gate. The nervousness and unease of playing the material is out of the way and the fun kicks in.

This band of brothers (not literally) don’t actually have those problems since they have been playing this music for more years than the average attendee.

Let me start by saying that these guys are musician’s-musicians which is to say, they are respected by their peers at all levels. Growing up and playing in bands in the eighties as I did, you could not turn on the radio and listen for more than 15 or 20 minutes without hearing one or more Doobie Brother songs. I remember asking my brother in the seventies what a “Doobie” was, and was more surprised by the fact that he actually told me,the definition itself (which I will leave out of this review). Oh yes, the review…

Doobie Brothers

The DB style ranges from the bluesy rock of Long Train Runnin' to the country tinged Black Water to the gospel/jazz rooted Takin' It ToThe Streets, and with the melting pot of Florida in attendance, it was a perfect fit.

As I arrived at the theater I noticed young and old taking their seats. At 8:20 Pat Simmons (one of the founding members) walked on stage and began talking about our US soldiers and the support that should be given to them no matter what your particular view of the war was. He voiced the bands support of the VFW and was joined on stage by the DB road manager who brought on stage with him a guitar (Fender Stratocaster, I believe) with signatures from the entire band prominently displayed. That’s right folks, it was an auction to benefit the Veterans. Apparently the Doobies did this three years ago when they last played the Florida Theater and the auction brought in $6,500.

Doobie Brothers

This time as the crowd cheered so loud, the bids could barely be heard, they started at $1,000, but it quickly climbed up over $ 10,000, then one woman held up her hand of 5 fingers three times. $15,000.00!!! Even though her bidding competitor yelled out a higher bid, the emotion and noise of the crowd visibly overwhelmed the two on stage and they announced Miss Georgia Horh from Jacksonville Beach, Florida as the winner. In addition to taking home the signed keepsake, she was also invited to take the stage to sing and play tambourine on “Listen to the Music” during the encore and hang out with the band backstage after the show.

Doobie Brothers

I caught up with the winner in the lobby later on and she told me that her dad was a WWII veteran and a Pearl Harbor survivor. This was her chance to pay tribute to her dad and have an experience of a lifetime wrapped in one. From the smile on her face in the above photo, I’d say it was money well spent.

With the crowd warmed up from the auction, the band took the stage and launched into Rockin' Down The Highway. The first thing I took notice of was how tight the band sounded. The sound wasn’t filled with synthesizers or backed by an orchestra, as some veteran rockers resort to late into their careers, no, this was 70’s style guitar boogie rock and roll.

The bass had balls and the guitar leads were smooth and melodic. You would think that with two drummers playing there might be a mis-beat or two throughout the night. Not one! These guys are pros and in addition, they were having fun laughing and riffing between the lines. Here’s where the musician’s-musician part comes in, it’s not just the old songs you notice but the relationship musically between the players. I enjoyed that more than the nostalgia.

As the night went on, the hits from the past sounded as fresh as they did when I was 15 years old and as Tom Johnston started to play the recognizable opening chords to “China Grove” (one of the DB most notable hits), the house rocked with a roar. I caught a glimpse of the past and for an hour or two, it took me and all of those in the theater back in time.

Doobie Brothers

Doobie Brothers: Pat Simmons

When the band left the stage after Long Train Runnin', not a person in attendance left their seat. Everyone knew there was more music to be played. If I had to point out one negative, it would have to be the 110 minute set. The loyal fans who came out could have been treated to more jams. As I mentioned before, the party atmosphere was contagious and it ended a bit too soon. I understand the concept of leaving them wanting more but, one or two more songs would not have jeopardized that.

The current DB lineup is Guy Allison - Keyboards/Vocals, Michael Hossack – Drums, Tom Johnston - Vocals/Guitar, John McFee - Guitar/Strings/Vocals, Marc Russo – Saxophones, Pat Simmons - Vocals/Guitar (still has his extremely long hair and even though he was wearing a hat all night, the one or two times he lifted it showed it was all still there), Skylark - Bass/Vocals and new addition Ed Toth (replacing longtime drummer Keith Knudsen who passed away this February) on a second set of Drums.

Doobie Brothers

Doobie Brothers: Tom Johnston

With twenty two albums (CD’s now) to date, The Doobie Brother song “Long Train Running” is ironically just that – and one that just won’t quit. As for me, I hope Pat, Tom and the guys keep it on those tracks for years to come.

Story and Photos by Steve Janowicz


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