Grand Funk Railroad play it safe–while having fun– onstage in Chandler

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Grand Funk Railroad at Wild Horse Pass Resort & Casino in Chandler, AZ on November 18th 2023

Review by Val Tapia
Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Venue: Wild Horse Pass, Gila River Resort & Casino (https://wildhorsepass.com/)
Date: Saturday November 18th, 2023
Tour: 50th Anniversary – We’re An American Band

Grand Funk Railroad at Wild Horse Pass Resort & Casino in Chandler, AZ on November 18th 2023

When I think of American rock and roll, it’s hard to believe how much Grand Funk Railroad have been taken for granted by music historians for the better part of the last 30 years– at least.

While they were rarely the critics’ choice, make no mistake, they were by-and-large the peoples’ choice.  However, that suited the original founding trio of drummer Don Brewer, former guitarist, chief songwriter, and lead vocalist Mark Farner, and bassist Mel Schacher perfectly fine at the height of their career in the early 1970s.

Fast forward to 2000, and Grand Funk Railroad eventually morphed into (and has remained) a quintet.  The current incarnation of the band features longtime members Tim Cashion on keyboards, lead vocalist Max Carl, and lead guitarist Bruce Kulick alongside the aforementioned original members Brewer and Schacher.

Grand Funk Railroad at Wild Horse Pass Resort & Casino in Chandler, AZ on November 18th 2023

“The American Band”, as GFR proudly proclaim, is currently on tour in support of the 50th anniversary of its 1973 album We’re An American Band.

Making a stop at Wild Horse Pass Resort & Casino on Sat. Nov. 18, the band played an 80-minute, 14-song set that commenced with Rock & Roll Soul (from 1972’s Phoenix) and Footstompin’ Music (from E Pluribus Funk, 1971).

Given that this incarnation of the band has lasted 23 years, I assume they still love playing music and enjoy each other’s company as well.  At this stage, they’re a well-oiled machine and Saturday night’s performance reinforced that.

Another GFR live staple, Shinin’ On, is received pretty well by the polite and appreciative crowd.  But it takes The Loco-Motion for everyone to stand up and sing.

Funny enough, there were only two songs played from We’re An American Band, the album this tour is supposedly “celebrating”.  Walk Like A Man being one of them.  Brewer handles lead vocals for this one, and sounds remarkably strong even after fifty years on the road.

I have to say there is still a head-scratcher to my ears in the setlist.  That distinction goes to 38 Special’s Second Chance (from 1988) being played.  I get it, Max Carl sings it, who replaced Don Barnes in that band.  To be fair, it was also a hit without question.

However, it’s equally fair to say that the overwhelming majority of Grand Funk Railroad fans would prefer hearing something like Bad Time over Second Chance–by a country mile.  Speaking candidly, that goes without saying. But I digress.

It should be said that Brewer couldn’t have made a better choice than reaching out to former KISS lead guitarist Bruce Kulick to join the band when he and Schacher decided to continue after Farner exited for the final time in 1998.

To that point, it could rightly be argued that Kulick shines more onstage with Grand Funk than he ever did with KISS.  To his credit, Kulick respects what Farner contributed while putting his own stamp on the band’s sound.  It’s nice to know that he found a new “home” after KISS, and deserves to be part of a band.

It’s a shame that the current incarnation of Grand Funk Railroad hasn’t released any new music.  I think it’s long overdue, especially given the length of time this lineup has existed.

Back onstage, the guys looked like they had a ball doing a percussion jam, if you will.  Carl also gave fans a brief history of musical instruments from around the world— something he knows a lot about. Nice to see him give recognition to that.

Of course, the band can’t leave the stage without playing Some Kind Of Wonderful, Closer To Home (which was slightly rearranged), and predictable show closer We’re An American Band.

Jefferson Starship at Wild Horse Pass Resort & Casino in Chandler, AZ on November 18th 2023

Opening the show was yet another incarnation of Jefferson Starship.  They pretty much stuck to well-known songs like Find Your Way Back, Sara, We Built This City, and Miracles. Kind of surprised that No Way Out was omitted from their set.  That would’ve brought the house down– in this writer’s humble opinion.

They also played a song from their latest album, 2020’s Mother of the Sun called It’s About Time.  The current lineup consists of sole original member and co-vocalist David Freiberg, drummer Donny Baldwin, keyboardist Chris Smith, lead vocalist Cathy Richardson, and Jude Gold on lead guitar.

No encores for GFR, but overall, it was a pretty solid show.  I’ll give it 3.5 out of five stars– worth a night out if you get the chance.


Grand Funk Railroad

Photos by Fred Kuhlman 2023, All Rights Reserved



Jefferson Starship

Photos by Fred Kuhlman 2023, All Rights Reserved



Grand Funk Railroad set list:
Rock & Roll Soul
Footstompin’ Music
Shinin’ On
Heartbreaker
The Loco-Motion
Walk Like A Man
Sky High
Second Chance
Percussion Circle/Lightning and Thunder
The Star-Spangled Banner
Inside Looking Out
Some Kind Of Wonderful
Closer To Home
We’re An American Band

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