(with John Berry and Wendell Cox)

August 26, 2001


Classic Center-Athens, GA (45107 bytes) (51832 bytes) (30882 bytes) (30395 bytes) (32272 bytes)

Charlie Daniels is well into his sixties now. That didn’t stop him from running onto the stage and leaping over monitors as he fiddled an instrumental overture to his sixteen-song set on this Sunday evening. Rednecks, frat boys and genteel gray haired southerners filled the venue even into the third balcony. Most of them knew what to expect. A few more sedate older souls were heard asking to be moved from their prime seats to anywhere away from the speakers blasting all those infernally loud electric guitars. To the rest, that just incited them to more rebel yelling and dancing. “The Legend Of Wooley Swamp” was even more dark and gritty than on record as Charlie ominously growled out the Southern Gothic ghost story. There was more harmony guitar here than at an Iron Maiden concert and this band rocked just as hard. The only true country moments came during the classic “Long Haired Country Boy” and a late show hoedown take of “Orange Blossom Special.” The rest of the performance was a hard rock show that just happened to have a southern accent and a cowboy hat. The bald drummer was crushing and could’ve taken on any household name drummer with his sheer power and technique. Watered down local country star John Berry couldn’t even soften the CDB’s edge as he joined them for a funky version of the Doobie Brothers “Listen To The Music.” New song “High Speed Heroes” had the NASCAR fans absolutely berserk. When Charlie sang that Dale Earnhart rode out “in a blaze of glory” and the “angels took him home,” there was an unbelievable surge of electricity from the audience as they leaped from their seats hooting and hollering in agreement. (24011 bytes) (58716 bytes) (26323 bytes) (52598 bytes) (44394 bytes)

After a truly inspired “How Great Thou Art,” Travis Tritt lead guitarist Wendall Cox joined the band on stage with his Stars And Bars decorated instrument. When Charlie then strapped on a Les Paul, the audience was treated to a four-guitar assault on the senses that the hardest rocking bands would be hard pressed to top. Trading licks on Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “The House Is Rocking,” all of the axemen took their turns giving it all they had. Speaking of owning a southern crowd and knowing how to please them, Charlie, Wendall and the CDB then broke out their tribute to the recently departed Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Leon Wilkeson. What else could it be? “Free Bird” had the people all the way into the third balcony dancing and singing along, especially by the time of the full out blast of the ending. Charlie fiddled as the other three guitarists careened notes into one another in a wash of Southern pride and overindulgence. Keeping the energy up, “The South’s Gonna Do It Again” kept up the redneck fervor and “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” drove ‘em home. I still say that the “band of demons” in that song kicked Johnny’s ass. While it would’ve been nice to have heard some of the missing classics (“In America,” “Still In Saigon,” “Simple Man,” “Uneasy Rider,” etc.), there really was very little to criticize here. The phenomenal musicianship, attitude and presence of Charlie, his band and his special guests truly rocked the Classic Center.

 Chris McKay/