Union County Performing Arts Center = August 25, 2023
Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf
The Outlaws, the Southern rock band known for combining the sounds of country and rock with their triple guitars and three and four-part harmonies are now in their 51st year. The band’s longevity is an accomplishment that lead singer, songwriter, guitar player, Henry Paul, the last-man-standing from the original line-up, was quite proud to announce at the August 25th performance at the Union County Performing Arts Center. Paul has a right to be proud. Although he’s the only original member, and the band has endured many trials and tribulations in the past half-century, including several dozen musicians who’ve come and gone from the band, the Outlaws continue to exist due to artists who remain eager to be part of the group’s legacy, as well as the band’s devoted, enthusiastic fanbase. The Outlaws don’t rely solely on music from their early years, rather they released All About Pride in 2012 and Dixie Highway in 2020. In August 2023 they released Anthology – Live & Rare, a 2022 remastering of live material and demos.
From the moment the band hit the stage, opening with “There Goes Another Love Song” from their 1975 self-titled debut album, the energy generated by the six musicians onstage was multiplied by the hundreds of audience members filling the arts center seats. With Paul singing lead, guitarists Jeff Aulich and Jimmy Dormire, along with bassist Randy Threet added layers of beautiful harmonies to this beloved, classic Outlaws number. This song was followed by “Hurry Sundown,” the title song from the band’s 1977 album, with powerful lead vocals by Aulich. Throughout the opening set, including “Freeborn Man,” “Stick Around,” “So Long, and Grey Ghost,” the guitarists frequently joined forces at center-stage to jam together and showcase their dynamic instrumental skills. Threet traveled about the stage as his fingers intensely moved along the strings of his bass; the electricity he generated traveling through his long blonde hair with each of his rapid-fire hair flips.
While Paul and Aulich traded lead vocals for most of the performance, it was not one individual lead singer who brought each song to life but rather the powerful three and four-part harmonies that added incredible depth and texture to each number. Likewise, the multiple guitars parts, the commanding drum beats performed by Mike Bailey and the compelling keyboard melodies played by Dave Robbins created layers of dynamic sound and energy. These current band members may not be the original members of the Outlaws (besides Paul) but that did not in the least diminished the passion and authenticity with which the music of the Outlaws was performed. Speaking to the crowd with pride and fortitude, Paul stated, “The Outlaws formed in 1972, 51 years ago, and we released our first album in 1975,” as applause spread through the audience. Paul passionately continued, “We might have different musicians now, but we started the band playing this music and this band plays the music with the same heart and the same commitment as we did in 1975!” Roaring cheers from the crowd was a glowing indication of the ongoing approval and devotion of the Outlaws’ fans.
Attending concerts of musicians who’ve been performing with a band for decades, I often wonder what joy they must feel as they carry on the band’s legacy and experience the fans’ love and dedication reflected back to them. I believe this was what Henry Paul was feeling during the performance as he looked out at the UCPAC crowd and emphatically exclaimed, “Outlaws are the best band!” As proud as Paul is about being the “father” of the Outlaws, he expressed greater pride at being the father to Hank (Henry Paul IV), introducing him to the cheering crowd, as Hank briefly joined the musicians onstage to sing and jam along on his guitar. Almost midway through the performance, the band’s powerful, electric Southern rock was traded for four stools, as the guitar players led the way in playing an energetic, down-home acoustic set. The set included, “Breaker-Breaker” and “South Carolina,” from 1976’s Lady in Waiting, “Cold Harbor” from 1986’s Soldier’s of Fortune and “Nothin’ Main About Street,” from 2012’s “It’s About Pride.”
Paul deserves to feel proud. While he’s the last-man-standing, he’s surrounded himself with musicians who beautifully carry on the sound, heart and soul of the Outlaws. All one had to do that evening at UCPAC was to look around at the enraptured audience, passionately singing and dancing along, and it’s a clear picture of the band’s ongoing success. With the band back on their feet and again powerfully electric, the evening’s performance wound down with a blast, including “It’s About Pride, “You Are the Show,” “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” their biggest single chart success, and “Green Grass and Tides,” one of the bands most well-known numbers.
Yes, it’s about pride. Pride born out of music that stands the test of time and fans who’ve remain devoted throughout the rigors of time. The Outlaws have ridden the waves and have remained afloat. Henry Paul has a right to be proud!