Cerritos Center For The Performing Arts , Cerritos, Cal., Aug. 22, 2002
CERRITOS, CA – It’s not uncommon for artists to have adversarial relationships with critics, but it’s quite unusual to see them call out a local writer publicly. But after admitting to being an unabashedly politically incorrect singer/songwriter, Charlie Daniels told his Cerritos audience that LA Time pop music critic Robert Hilburn once raked him over the coals for the blunt vigilante justice he expressed through his next song, “Simple Man,” before asking the crowd if Hilburn still writes for the paper. (He does, by the way).
But Daniels’ loyal fan base doesn’t mind his straight shooting approach one single bit, and cheered loudly for his every remark - like they were in the corner of an underdog prize fighter.
His audience was loyal, but it was also small. In fact, Daniels was only able to fill the lower level seats, leaving the three upper levels empty. It probably didn’t help that the opener, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, was completely omitted from the LA Times’ concert listing – there’s that newspaper again.
Politics and economics aside, Daniels and his five-piece band still played a smokin’ set of Southern rock-influenced country music. He drew liberally from his new “Redneck Fiddlin’ Man” album, including “Southern Boy,” which he co-wrote with Travis Tritt, the swinging “Rock This Joint,” and the 9/11 tributary “Last Fallen Hero.”
Daniels switched back and forth between fiddle and guitar, and sometimes when he was playing electric lead, he and his two side guitarists formed a three-tiered guitar army. This made for a mighty loud sound, and one suspects this is not the kind of thing this mostly older Performing Art Center audience is used to hearing. But to their credit, they mostly hung in there until the end with Daniels. Not a one ran out with hands cupped over ears.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band put on a well-paced and lively hour of music, even though they regularly play at least an hour and a half a night. Their variety-packed show ranged from a bluegrass version of The Beatles’ “Get Back” to an authentic country-rock take on Gram Parsons’ and Chris Hillman's “Wheels.” John McEuen’s recent return to the fold was especially welcome, as there doesn’t seem to be a stringed thing he has not mastered, and his minstrel in the gallery dancing fiddler routine added extra visual zip to the group’s overall presentation.