WAR brings legendary funk, reggae to free Steamboat concert
Steamboat Springs — When Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan falls asleep at night after a show, it’s still playing in his head — the thunk of the cowbell, the deep raspy vocals, the catchy horn riff and the iconic American imagery of pimped-out cars floating through his dreams.
Jordan doesn’t know how many times he’s played “Low Rider” — the band WAR’s infamous hit song from 1975 — in a live show.
He said he could more easily count the times he hasn’t played it in the band’s 43-year history.
And he’s bound to play it again Friday, when Jordan, a founding member of WAR, joins the band for a Steamboat Free Summer Concert Series performance at 6 p.m. at Howelsen Hill.
“Every time I play it, there’s two different things that happen,” the keyboard player said in a Wednesday interview with ExploreSteamboat.com. “One is that I get to jam it different every time. We started as a jam band, we’ll always be that. And No. 2, they’re so happy when I play it, and I’m a reflection of the people, so they make me happy, and they make it fun, make it into a party.”
Jordan brings a lineup of musicians who have played with him for as long as 20 years, but he is the only original member of the band playing under the name WAR. The rest of the ensemble comprises Sal Rodriguez on percussion, Fernando Harkles on saxophone, Marcos Reyes on percussion, Stuart Ziff on guitar, Francisco “Pancho” Tomaselli on bass and Stanley Behrens on harmonica.
WAR’s history is long and, like so many bands, has been contentious. There were legal issues and personal tensions as members split off and formed the “Low Rider Band.”
But Jordan said he has no regrets.
“I still love those guys,” he said about former members Lee Oskar, Harold Brown, Howard Scott and B.B. Dickerson. “The problem that happened between us … we had a great marriage at one time, and we had beautiful children, which was music. But we had a bad divorce. The time we spent together was great. We enjoyed our youth.”
That might be an understatement. In their heyday during the ’70s and ’80s, WAR’s world funk and reggae vibes attracted an energetic fan base.
“I would say I was amazed that anybody, first of all, liked our music,” Jordan recalled. “When they played it on the radio, I was surprised they were allowed to play it on the radio. It was too different.
“No one really believed in us. We had to pretty much promote our own records. We built a new landscape through the unique methods of our playing. We didn’t know what we were doing. But the ‘70s were a great time to be in it. It was peace, love, flower childs, and everything was great.”
Four decades and nearly 20 albums later, the current WAR lineup still radiates the band’s original positive mindset on stages across the country.
“It’s the concept of the not thinking when we’re onstage and being more of a reflection of our fans instead of playing for ourselves. But our fans are not perfect. They can just sing the songs with us and reminisce. We don’t play any new music; we play the hits, and we jam the hits. There’s no sequencing machines, no nothing. Any mistakes there, we look at that mistake as a gift, a gift from God.”
Jordan said he was looking forward to traveling to Steamboat Springs. He’s no stranger to Colorado. Jordan has family in the state, and the band even recorded one of its albums on a ranch outside Nederland.
He said the Free Summer Concert Series stage is an ideal venue for WAR.
“We are a summer band. There’s not much more I can tell you,” he said. “We bring the music and make people feel good. We always bring sunshine.”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com
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Explore a mix of in-person and virtual events happening this weekend in Routt County.