NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. -- The Doobie Brothers haven't always had it easy. Countless member changes, several lukewarm albums and many mediocre solo attempts have prevented the band from reaching the same height of popularity that some of their fellow '70s artists have seen.
Yet Thursday night, the bumpy road traveled by the Brothers seemed non-existent. As they graced the Fallsview Casino's Avalon Theatre stage, only the hits seemed to be remembered, and only the raw talent of the musicians seemed to matter.
Void was any element of ostentatiousness -- either onstage or off -- and this seemed to account for why the event was a success. This shared sense of respect with the crowd remained constant throughout the show. Perhaps the excitement could be attributed to the average age of the audience. More than half of the crowd looked just as old if not older than the band members themselves.
However, as the night began, age quickly proved to be only a number. As the animated band started rocking out, the previously mellow crowd became alive. During "Rocking Down the Highway," the audience seemed to be possessed by some other worldly musical demon, wiggling, twisting, clapping and foot stomping along. It was as if the music ignited a fire that could only be fueled by the intricate guitar playing of original Doobie Pat Simmons, the impressive keyboard skills of Guy Allison and the enthusiasm of saxophonist Marc Russo.
That fire lasted nearly an hour and a half, as the Brothers ran through songs like "Jesus Is Just Alright," "This Train I'm On," and "South City Midnight Lady."
"This is a great place to play," Simmons told fans. "I hope it's as much fun for you as it is for us."
"Takin' it to the Streets" had fans hopping out into the aisles, as the dance fever continued. On the bluesy-rock "Don't Start Me Talkin,' " guitarist John McFee made sure to play to the entire crowd, but only after joining in synchronized guitar swinging and stage hopping with his band mates.
Finally, after many requests, the crowd got what they wanted. As the opening notes of "Black Water" broke out, fans suspected they were in for a treat, and indeed they were. With McFee on fiddle, Simmons sang the Brothers classic, even substituting the lyric location of Mississippi to Ontario to the delight of the audience. The entire theater gladly sang along to the chorus, and as the enthusiasm built, so did the passionate playing of the band.
As the show closed, fans left with exactly what they expected: plenty of favorites and enough impressive instrumental solos to last until next time.
WHO: The Doobie Brothers
WHEN: Thursday night
WHERE: Avalon Theatre, Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort