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War

War

Courtesy of Dan Atiliano

It’s a question Lonnie Jordan knows is coming before it’s even asked: How are casual fans of War supposed to differentiate between two versions of the classic band?

The group going by the name War plays Friday night at the Event Center at River City Casino and includes one original member: Jordan. The rest of the band is mostly musicians who joined in the 2000s.

Then there’s the Lowrider Band. It’s made up of Jordan’s former bandmates and original War players. That lineup includes Howard E. Scott, B.B. Dickerson, Lee Oskar and Harold Brown — “the guys who wrote the songs with me,” Jordan says. The War players who became the Lowrider Band were on the losing end of litigation in the 1990s over the band’s name; War went to Jordan.

“War is me with the new band — new faces,” he says. “I never left. Lowrider Band is who they are. They’re the original guys. They play sometimes, and sometimes they don’t.”

War is known for “The World Is a Ghetto,” “Low Rider,” “The Cisco Kid,” “Spill the Wine” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”

Jordan says the original War lineup “had a good marriage at one time, a good run, and we had beautiful children: the music.”

He explains that, at the time of the band’s split in the ’90s, “some of the guys had totally different ideas about the future,” leading to time in court. “I didn’t like doing that. Most of the guys wanted to stay in court, and what happens when you stay in court? You lose your connection with fans over time — out of sight, out of mind. I wanted people to know we’re still alive and to see Lonnie still carrying the torch.”

He says War’s current members — Stuart Ziff, Marcos J. Reyes, Scott Martin, Stanley “The Baron” Behrens, Rene Camacho and Sal Rodriguez — are “humble and hungry. They love to work, and they’ve got a great attitude. That’s all I need. They’re just like we were when we first started back in the day. One thing I told them, I gave them lessons about the past, the way we create music being through the people and through the street. Don’t worry about tuning up the instruments or sound effects. Let’s just get up and jam.”

Being the solo core player of War surrounded by newer members does mean he carries a heavier load. But once he’s onstage, the load is instantly lightened.

Jordan enjoys today’s War and isn’t eyeing a reunion. But if there’s an offer on the table for something special, such as the band getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he’d be in. The band made it onto the nominations ballot a few times.

Lonnie Jordan

Lonnie Jordan performs in 2013 with War in Atlanta.

Photo by Robb D. Cohen/RobbsPhotos/Invision/AP

Jordan says the band has had problems with its identity for years. People loved the music, evidenced by a slew of hits, but they didn’t always know what War was. Some people heard the band’s name and associated it with the song “War (What Is it Good For)” by Edwin Starr.

“We became the black phantom group that never existed,” he says.

Jordan also says War has always been difficult to categorize. “We’re a unique group that’s all over the map genre-wise,” he says.

But the band used that to its benefit. “It kept us working. We play jazz festivals, reggae festivals, classic rock festivals, smooth jazz festivals, Latin festivals. We never stopped working because of that.”

War, which hasn’t released a full album of new music since “Peace Sign” (1994), has entertained the idea of new material, but chances of that happening aren’t great.

“We’d been thinking about going back into the studio, but what good would it do? Our focus would be better at doing a live album,” he says. If the band goes this route, it would be the first release from the current War lineup.

The act remains a hit on the road, playing classics the way fans remember them. War performed at Chesterfield Amphitheatre in 2018. “I refuse to quit playing,” Jordan says.

“Bring plenty of water — our stage will be smoking,” he warns fans. “I wanna keep it raw like it was back in the day. The only difference is different faces.”

What War • When 8 p.m. Friday • Where Event City at River City Casino, 777 River City Casino Boulevard • How much $47-$57 • More info ticketmaster.com

Kevin C. Johnson is the pop music critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.