By Daniel Barbour
If you were alive to see "Easy Rider" on the big screen or were involved in hippie or biker culture back in the day, there's a decent chance you were there to see John Kay & Steppenwolf perform atChevy Court Monday night.
Primarily known for their classic rock biker anthem "Born To Be Wild," and their second single "Magic Carpet Ride," Steppenwolf are a band firmly planted in American pop cultural history. And those who saw them play tonight saw exactly why that is.
Many of the classic rock bands of the sixties and seventies have lost a bit of their luster as live performers and can be rather disappointing to watch nowadays. But this couldn't be further from the truth in regards to John Kay and Steppenwolf.
In terms of both musicianship and energy these guys are every ounce as great as they were in their prime, with no vocal cracks or flubbed guitar solos to speak of. Indeed if solos were what you were after this evening you were in for some good ones, as both keyboardist Michael Wilk and lead guitarist Danny Johnson ripped through a number of furious licks throughout the night.
Then, of course, there's frontman John Kay. Charismatic, funny, and as good a performer at 70 as anyone else in the business, Kay was a blast to watch. One particularly impressive moment was the intro to "Screaming Night Hog," which features a harmonized melody between Johnson on guitar and Kay on harmonica. Given how imprecise a lot of harmonica players are, this was pretty impressive to observe.
Fans were also treated to a cover of the blues classic "Hoochie Coochie Man," a song made famous by Muddy Waters, and a heartfelt performance of "Monster," which deals with America's morally ambiguous history.
The crowd for this show was immense, taking up most of the lawn at Chevy Court. It was a testament to the band's longevity as well as the Fair's clever scheduling. As one Santa-bearded gentleman pointed out to me, having the band play on Senior Citizen Day was a big boon for attendance.
As the rock legends finally performed "Born To Be Wild" to close their set before the encore, the entire crowd stood up, belted the words, and rocked out like it was 1967. Nearly half a century later Steppenwolf are still bringing the heavy metal thunder.
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