In Concert - Charlie Daniels and Marty Stuart

This review appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal - August 28, 1998

Every time I sit in the crowd of a Charlie Daniels concert, or every time I pop a Marty Stuart disc in my CD deck, I get the same mental image: Beavis and Butthead are sitting in a concert hall, complaining about the fact that they are about to be subjected to country music. Then the lights go down and the band starts to play, and their jaws drop and their eyes pop wide open. "Whoa!" I can almost hear them saying, "These guys rock!"

Exactly. And last night two of country music's most eminent rockers, Charlie Daniels and Marty Stuart, kicked butt at Cardinal Stadium.

Stuart, the opening act, is equal parts flash and substance; his music, a goodhearted brew of country, rockabilly and straight-ahead Southern rock, is absolutely irresistible, and the same thing can be said about his stage presence. Although he wasn't decked out in his usual finery, his charm was still as pervasive as ever. While bounding up and down the stage, he played the crowd as much as he played any instrument he happened to be holding.

Stuart's band ended the set with a stanza from AC/DC's "Back In Black" -- yet one more reminder that this is definitely not your standard evening of country music.

Then came Daniels, who is surely one of the class acts of country rock; his early work was a defining element in the classic "Western rock" sound made permanent by bands like the Allman Brothers and The Outlaws. On songs like "The Legend of Wooley Swamp," Daniels worked the crowd into a fit of backwoods hysteria, and for a few precious moments the entire stadium felt like a giant front porch, and we were all there, sitting and talking and feeling the music cut through the crisp evening air.

But the highlight of Daniels' evening had to be "El Toreador," a thunderous and savagely creative song that any metal band in their right mind would have been proud to write. Once again, Daniels demonstrated how little room for monotony there is in any style of music.

Again, the set was not perfect: For instance, when the piano player got to sing a song in his whiny, nasal and too-loud drone, a spasm rippled through the stands as the audience shared a collective wince. Fortunately, it was over almost as soon as it began.

But petty complaints aside, the evening stands as one of the best such concerts in recent memory; what better way to spend an evening than listening to two great musicians weave their spell on a cool and cloudless Kentucky night?

Written by James Bickers

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