The legendary rock band brought its 50th anniversary tour (at long last) to Van Andel Arena on Sunday night. The Local Spins review, photo gallery and set list.
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By no means was it a chronological trip through the decades.
But hop-scotching through its deep musical catalogue, the band of brothers known best at The Doobies maneuvered musically far and wide during its 50th anniversary tour stop in Grand Rapids for an expectant Van Andel Arena crowd.
Without an opening act and foregoing an intermission, the eight players sprayed out 24 songs over 124 minutes. And the band’s core group: guitarists and co-founders Pat Simmons and Tom Johnston, multi-instrumentalists John McFee and keyboard/vocalist Michael McDonald each saw a lot of action.
The players spent much of the evening revisiting their 1970s heyday with their Motown cover “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)” and original gems such as “Long Train Runnin’” and its set-closing “China Grove.”
But McDonald joined the band in mid-decade, taking the group toward a more soulful, jazz-inspired pop direction. And his vocal and instrumental influence is strong in hits such as “Minute By Minute,” “Real Love” and the Grammy-winning “What a Fool Believes,” all of which were on Sunday’s set list.
And oh, Mr. McDonald. How he loves to use his soulful voice to hang onto a lyric or phrase and emotionally squeeze it in before or after the beat: or even into the next measure. A hard-working and interpretive keyboardist, the veteran is a flurry of sight and sound.
For a more recent sampler, the band performed three songs from ”Liberte,” an album released last fall. The Simmons-penned “Better Days” is a thoughtful, down tempo tune, different from their classic Doobie sound.
AN ENCORE OF ENDURING FAN FAVORITES
Saxophonist Marc Russo stayed busy, too, playing his tenor instrument on nearly every song and providing lead parts on most, including the deliberate “It Keeps You Runnin.’”
McFee demonstrated his play-anything-with-strings ability: various guitars (acoustic, electric, pedal steel). And of course, the fiddle part on “Black Water, which the band reserved to open its encore.
He even threw in the harmonica part on “Long Train Runnin.’”
The players — whose appearance in Grand Rapids was delayed by a year due to COVID — were buoyed by a large screen, segmented video board at the rear of the stage. Some vintage videos of the band, old concert footage and album photos were mixed in throughout.
Other supportive video accompanied “World Gone Crazy” (shots of New Orleans), and street marches and other streetscapes during the McDonald-voiced “Takin’ it to the Streets.”
A highlight worth mentioning: “Clear As The Driven Snow.” Simmons humorously introduced it as “psychedelic folk rock.” But its progressive elements, time signature changes, and acoustic-to-arena-size kicks and jams make it a minor masterpiece.
The singer ended the song with a stage “jump” and stumbled slightly. “I almost didn’t make it back,” he quipped immediately afterward. (Both Simmons and Johnston are well into their 70s, by the way).
The Doobie Brothers closed their encore with “Listen to the Music,” it’s first-ever radio “hit” from 1972. And the on-its-feet audience was not only listening, but singing along on the melodic chorus.
PHOTO GALLERY: The Doobie Brothers at Van Andel Arena
Photos by Anthony Norkus
SET LIST: The Doobie Brothers at Van Andel Arena
2. Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)
3. Here to Love You
4. Dependin’ On You
5. Rockin’ Down the Highway
6. You Belong To Me
8. South City Midnight Lady
9. Clear as the Driven Snow
10. It Keeps You Runnin’
11. Eyes of Silver
12. Better Days
13. Don’t Ya Mess With Me
14. Real Love
15. World Gone Crazy
16. Minute By Minute
17. Without You
18. Jesus Is Just Alright
19. What A Fool Believes
20. Long Train Runnin’
21. China Grove
22. Black Water
23. Takin’ It To The Streets
24. Listen To the Music
Copyright 2022, Spins on Music LLC