Last week, Charlie Daniels and his crew of country co-patriots brought their blend of country to the Armory in Rochester.

Opening for the famous country power group was a ‘Special Guest” that was so special they decided never to tell the audience what their name was. A local group that only ever said the members’ names but never the name of the band, they played a very mediocre opening set.

Without carping the local band’s entire performance, I’ll sum it up with one of my pet peeves: they had three members, only two of which did anything. The third stood on the side of the stage and just sang back-up vocals. Back-up vocals are great in studio, but was she really needed in the live performance? No. The lead singer was even using a pedal to stomp a tambourine that easily could have been given to the third member to justify her on-stage presence.

Personal peeves aside, their songs also were not very impressive. Playing a bland set that simply was not very exciting, the band looked like a group of people who all haphazardly had joined together to make some kind of country band. While I am not a fervent fan of country music, it was just a little awkward to hear a band from Rochester sing ‘In the Boondocks.” There ain’t no honeysuckle in Rochester, ‘Mystery Band” sorry to tell you.

While the first band left stage and Charlie Daniels set up, the Rochester Scottish Pipe and Drum Corp played a short set in the middle of the crowd. A well-placed surprise, the band offered nice listening while the sets were changed and could have played even longer. In fact, they could have taken the opening slot from ‘Mystery Band,” and I would have been even happier.

Finally, Charlie Daniels came out, huge belt buckle shining and white cowboy boots ablaze, and chomping on either tobacco or a very large wad of gum. Blasting through songs spanning the entire history of the long- lived country band, Daniels went back and forth between playing the fiddle he is best known for and taking turns blaring on electric guitar.

My only complaint is that he did seem to spend more time on guitar, and the fiddle seemed to take, well, second fiddle. And if there is anything I think of when the Charlie Daniels Band comes to mind, it’s the fiddle.

However, the band surprised me with its musical skill and ability to put on a show. Not just sticking to tunes from the Daniels repertoire, each member of the band took a turn playing one of his own original works. Each member of the country band had the musical chops behind his instrument and the ability to solo quite well, some of them rivaling licks that I would have expected to see at a rock or jazz show, not a country one.

After each musician got a chance to show his own prowess, and after two lengthy jam songs during which each member of the band passed around the solo baton, Daniels again brought out the fiddle to finish out the night.

Starting up a song, then quickly ending it, Daniels made a quick fake offstage, before turning around and starting what is perhaps the most famous song from the band, if not in all of country music ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Living up to its hype, this song was a fitting closer to the set and to the night as a whole.

While I have to say that country concerts are not usually my favorite, I was happily impressed with the set that Daniels put on at the Armory. It bypassed the usual country realm and moved into territory usually reserved for ‘harder” musical genres. The band stepped out of their country shell and made it a much more enjoyable night.

Clark is a member of the class of 2012.



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