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Grand Funk Kicking Off Rockin' on the Riverfront Series

Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

After five years of the current incarnation of Grand Funk Railroad, drummer-singer Don Brewer feels confident that fans understand what it's all about.

"We're a touring band, and people know what they're gonna get," says Brewer, 57, who since 2001 has been leading a quintet that includes founding bassist Mel Schacher, former .38 Special singer Max Carl, former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick and longtime GFR keyboarist Tim Cashion.

"We give 'em the hits, the high-energy Grand Funk show. I think a lot of people are surprised when they see the band that it sounds this good. It sounds fresh. We're really proud of it."

The group, founded in 1968 in Flint, has fresh material, too, according to Brewer -- including the show-opening, group-sung "Bottle Rocket," the ballad "Who Took Down the Stars" and the instrumental, percussion-heavy "Lightning and Thunder." This, of course, begs the question of when we're going to hear a new Grand Funk album, but Brewer says the group isn't necessarily in a hurry to do that.

"We'd like to do a whole new CD and get it out there," he explains. "But we'd like radio support, and radio's just not been very friendly to classic rock bands coming out with new stuff.

"So at this point we're just having fun with (the new songs), and we'll be ready to go once the opportunity comes around. We've just been laying back and waiting to see what the landscape brings."

The group did release a new "Greatest Hits" set this year, featuring 14 favorites such as "Bad Time," "I'm Your Captain" and covers of "Some Kind of Wonderful" and "The Loco-Motion;" an expanded edition of the album is due out this summer featuring additional video material.

And Grand Funk's past is getting another airing this year thanks to '80s rockers Poison, who covered the group's signature hit, "We're An American Band," for its own best-of album.

"It's the song that never dies," Brewer, who sings sit, says with a laugh. "There's just a vibe about it, I think. There's just an energy about that song and about that track that feels as new and fresh now as it did in 1973. It's great to have something like that in your catalog."

Friday's (June 16th) Grand Funk Railroad concert is the kickoff for the first Rockin' on the Riverfront series, which will feature 10 free concerts by local and national acts on Friday nights (and one Thursday) at the Riverfront Plaza behind the GM Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. Showtime is 8 p.m. and seating is general admission. The full summer schedule includes:


16 -- Grand Funk Railroad

23 -- Thornetta Davis

30 -- Detroit Women


6 -- Dickey Betts & Great Southern (Thursday night show)

14 -- Alberta Adams

21 -- The Romantics

28 -- John D. Lamb


4 -- Howlin' Diablos

11 -- Blue Oyster Cult

18 -- Grievous Angel

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