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REVIEW: “Takin’ It to the Streets”: The Doobie Brothers at Treasure Island

The Doobie Brothers played Friday at the Treasure Island Ampitheater at Treasure Island Resort & Casino in Welch, MN.

The Doobie Brothers brought their “50th Anniversary Tour” to the Treasure Island Amphitheater Friday evening. The group – founded in 1970 and 2020 inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – can be forgiven for some slight fibbing on the tour name. Pat Simmons, the only constant member of the group through the decades and different lineups, pointed out this flexible branding, noting that it was more like a 53rd Anniversary – but no reason to quibble.

The Doobie Brothers got their start in what is now California’s Silicon Valley, a year before the first single-chip microprocessor was invented at Intel and jumpstarted the booming tech industry of today. The band became early favorites amongst the Hells Angels long before they made it big among the general public. Today, they have sold over 50 million records worldwide. 

For this concert, it was raining at Treasure Island for much of the afternoon and early evening, but cleared up just in time for the performance before an enthusiastic crowd.  Doobie Brothers fans tend to divide into two camps. First are those who favor the hard-driving boogie rock of the group’s early years (e.g., “China Grove”, “Listen to the Music”, and “Rockin’ Down the Highway”), with Tom Johnston doing most of the writing and lead vocals. Second are those who favor the blue-eyed soul of later years (e.g., “Real Love”, “What a Fool Believes”, and “Minute by Minute”), when Michael McDonald was brought in to help with the vocals. (This was a time when Johnston had some medical and other issues.)

A promotional photo of the Doobie Brothers.

Friday night, however, there was no need to choose. Both Johnston and McDonald were present, joined on vocals by Simmons (the writer and vocalist on the group’s perhaps-signature song, “Black Water”) and John McFee (vocalist and multi-instrumentalist).  As always, the group was very ably supported by a large band (including, as is long tradition, two drummers), often featuring Marc Russo on saxophone.

Over an energetic two-hours-plus performance, the band played every hit, while adding three good pieces from their 2021 album Liberté: “Better Days”, “Don’t Ya Mess with Me”, and “Easy”. They also played quite a few “deep cuts” from their classic albums (e.g., “Eyes of Silver”, “Clear as the Driven Snow”, and “Another Park, Another Sunday”).

For a band that had been known for hard partying as well as biker gang audiences, it was indeed heart-warming to see so many members of the group in good voice – and slashing electric guitar – 50-plus years on. 

Singer-songwriter Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan.
Brian Bix