PALMER -- After 53 years of performing and recording, this wasn't Charlie Daniels' first rodeo, nor was this even his first Alaska State Fair. The Charlie Daniels Band graced the Borealis stage in 2007, and Tuesday evening the audience was once again packed with a crowd of long-haired country boy sympathizers.
No one in the band has long hair these days, but Daniels said that his multigenerational backing band is the best he's ever had. The five-piece took many opportunities to show off its chops, including a couple jam-band, fusion-style forays (double-kick drums in a Southern rock band?), but it was the traditional foot-stompers that got the biggest reactions from the crowd.
That's what the band offered out of the gate. After a break in the rain, the loudspeakers announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, from Mount Juliet, Tenn., the Charlie Daniels Band," at which point the group's namesake bounced onto the stage with surprising energy, given that, again, he's been doing this for 53 years.
It took about half a song before Daniels replaced the first of many bows he frayed over the course of the 90-minute set, which was book-ended by fiddle songs. The middle part featured Daniels on guitar and included "The Legend of Wooley Swamp" and the newer "A Few More Rednecks." The latter he prefaced with a question: "We got any rednecks in Alaska?" The response was an enthusiastic yes.
There were plenty of songs about common folks and several shout-outs to men and women in the armed services.
"There are no better people than the ones in uniform," said Daniels. "They're the best we've got."
One of those dedications was another more recent song called "Let 'Em Win or Bring 'Em Home," which includes this verse: "And they hold their head up higher and keep hiding all the hurt, while that bunch of dirty scumbags at the Westboro Baptist Church insult our fallen heroes whose boot strings they're not worthy to untie."
Later he asked about the Alaska Aces before launching into a cover of "Folsom Prison Blues" (Daniels does a pretty good Johnny Cash impression). After the lyric about shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die, he explained it was because the man was a Bakersfield Condors fan.
Eventually he went back to his fiddle and started handing out his frayed bows to kids near the stage -- "Next time I'll bring more bows," he said.
Of course, the closer was "Devil Went Down to Georgia," and after the fiddle solo that defeats Satan, Daniels referenced the recent Geico commercial he was in.
"That's how it's done, son."
Reach Play editor Matt Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4556.
By MATT SULLIVAN