How exactly does one describe Charlie Daniels? He seems to spin so many different personalities into a single night’s performance.
Perhaps he’s the Southern superstar with a brawny sass we see as he dances out on stage, or maybe he’s a mischievous spinner of wives’ tales, with that bearded face shrouded in the shadow of his signature bull-rider hat. Maybe he’s a wise ol’ pappy showcasing the traditional pride and value of a genuine “redneck,” and there’s no argument that he’s a red-blooded American, proud of the soldiers that fight for our freedom. It may just be easiest to give him a title he’s aptly earned: a legend.
Daniels’ MC concert on Sept. 30 opened with Will Tate and the Six Mile Express.
The opening act was much milder than the headliner, although this is likely due to the lack of the booming sound system and the dazzling light show that accompanied the Charlie Daniels Band.
With an “aw shucks, ma’am” charm, Will Tate and the Six Mile Express set a fire through the audience with lightning-quick banjo picking, old-timey piano tunes and even an impressive wooden-box solo. They played a medley of classic country and jazz tunes that got the audience clapping and hollering again and again.
Tate and company were an unexpected delight, but there was a strong buzz in the air as the audience waited for the country marvel to appear.
When Daniels finally appeared on stage, it almost seemed that a mythical figure had emerged from the darkness, with his cowboy boots stomping to and fro and a Texas-sized belt buckle shining with all the might of a summertime sunset.
Daniels would wield many instruments this evening, but his weapon of choice would be the fiddle. Daniels wouldn’t be alone in his musical talent, though. They call it the Charlie Daniels Band for good reason: he was surrounded by master musicians.
At one point, Daniels even showcased their talents, highlighting their abilities in a multi-genre epic. The guitarists showed they could craft a fast-paced country ditty, and the bassist set loose a smooth jazz. The drummer went faster than the speed of sound and delivered a blast of psychedelic rock, one that received a standing ovation.
What struck me about Daniels’ performance is that it seemed as though we were all sitting back, enjoying some quality time with an old friend. He was certainly an inviting character, and even though he got pretty religious, and even political, there wasn’t an air of controversy in the slightest.
The Grammy-winner was surprisingly energetic but kept it laid back. His call-it-like-I-see-it attitude was one of wisdom and the respect of a true Southern gentleman. It was an attitude that seemed directly infused into his performance, as the laid-back master of his craft commanded the stage with ease.
With his final two songs, Daniels and his musical armada set the audience ablaze with proud renditions of ”Rocky Top” and “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” As he played, smiling and bobbing all the while, I don’t think I was the only one who expected that fiddle to start smoking.
With humility and grace despite his stardom, Daniels came, conquered and likely won over a generation of new fans.
It’s not every day one gets to see a legend, and I don’t think anyone would deny that MC is proud to have had such a grand presence on our campus.