Written by Kevin Black
My favorite rock & roll comes from the 70s. Classic Rock is the title given to rock music made back in a time when musicians basically ruled the studios. So, naturally I get excited when three artists from that era come together to either promote a new collection of songs or to simply come to town to let you know they’ve still got it.
Let me start by thanking the Smart Financial Center for creating something special. With a comfortable seating capacity of 6,400, a state of the art light show and a sound system that rocks every square foot of this gorgeous venue, I say,
“Turn it up and Let the Good Times Roll.”
The line-up, Paul Rodgers, Jeff Beck, Ann Wilson; and to me, little-known here in America, Deborah Bonham. For those of you who are saying, “These people are famous? I don’t know these names.” Well, keep reading, Rockers.
Not sure why I didn’t see Deborah Bonham on the bill. Opening this concert was the rock chick from next door. From across the pond that is. Born in Worcestershire, England, and the sister to the late AND great John Bonham, original drummer for Led Zeppelin, Deb opened the show alone, accompanied only by a guitarist. Her voice and song selection made me wish she had a stage full of musicians. She had a great laid-back attitude and seemed genuinely humbled by the audience. I liked her voice and am looking forward to hearing some of her studio work.
If you haven’t heard the name Ann Wilson, maybe you’ve heard of the Wilson Sisters. If not, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of the band Heart.
Ann Wilson, front singer for the band, is and will probably always be known as one of the top greatest chick rock singers. In 1976, “Crazy On You” hit the airwaves and a star was born. Following with songs like “Barracuda,” “Magic Man,” “Heartless,” “Dreamboat Annie,” “Straight On” and “Dog and Butterfly,” they were destined for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame! In 2013, that’s exactly what happened. Yet on this night, Ann decided, for reasons unknown to me, to perform only one of their hits.
Opening with a Who song we/the audience had no reason to believe her second song, “Barracuda,” would be her first and last song from the Heart repertoire. She did explain that she wanted to perform music from several artists that had a huge impact on her. So for the remainder of her time on stage, she played songs from The Who, Eagles, Black Crows, Yes and Audioslave. Her tribute to the Eagles was a rendition of “Life in the Fast Lane.” She reduced the tempo to a more bluesy feel, which I personally enjoyed. Though Ann Wilson can still tip the scale in her favor when it comes to female rock singers, my preference is to hear her belt out her own hits. You go girl. You still got the pipes!
Never met Jeff Beck, but he seems like a really cool dude. He still has that trademark rock look he’s always displayed; still viewing life through those classic mirrored sunglasses. Jeff was born before World War II had ended. At 74 years of age and after 53 years in the business, Beck still delivers exactly what his fans came to hear. I went to my first rock concert, if memory serves me, in 1970. This rock concert is the only one to date I’m aware of that brought a guitar, bass, drums and— wait for it— a cello! What works for Jeff Beck works for me! And, it seemed to work for the rest of the rock fans in attendance. You may think you have never heard of Geoffrey Arnold Beck, but you have heard him. Aside from his own commercial success, Jeff has recorded on other artist albums such as Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Bon Jovi, ZZ Top, Mick Jagger and on and on and on.
JB is mostly known for his innovated instrumental guitar sounds. On this night, he added a vocalist who took this night’s set list to the next level. Jimmy Hall— the lead singer for a great group, Wet Willie— has a unique and powerful voice. Great add, Jeff. Beck doesn’t say much in his live performance. He simply lets his Fender Stratocaster do all the talking. And it had a lot to say. Jeff is definitely one of the pioneers of using the volume knob on the guitar to create a unique sound effect; one that most guitarists need a pedal to achieve the same effect. The sound was awesome, the lights were exciting and the musicians he shared the stage with collectively made for an excellent 75-minute set. With six Grammys, it’s no surprise that Jeff Beck has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame— get this—TWICE!
Moving On… Oh wait, that’s a Bad Company song!
Maybe I just gave it away for those of you who aren’t certain who Paul Rodgers is. There are reasons why some artists are always going to headline. After Beck’s performance, this headliner was called in to question. The real question, did Paul Rodgers rise to the occasion? ABSOLUTELY!
How many of you attend a concert wondering whether or not the singer will still be able to hit the notes that you remember so well? I know I went into the evening wondering, but hoping, Paul could. It’s amazing how an artist can sing for 50 years and still have the raw vocal power and the accuracy to deliver what you were hoping to hear.
This tour is billed Paul Rodgers as opposed to Bad Company. Paul recently toured here as Bad Company. This time, he wants to perform songs from his early career when he fronted the band Free. It’s apparent Rodgers’s influence fueled that band as well. Alternating between Free and Bad Company hits, it was obvious we were all in good company
The band was very well rehearsed. It was obvious Paul has enough respect for the music and his fans to rehearse prior to kicking off the tour. He didn’t take advantage of the venues sophisticated lighting capabilities — the show was all about the music. His pitch-perfect performance of hits like “Can’t Get Enough” (the song after his opening song from Free), “Bad Company,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” “Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy” and, of course “Shooting Star” (one of the songs I covered for years), all prove he’s still a viable, rockin’ force in the music business.
Rodgers chose his encore wisely. He closed the show with a song that a considerable amount of Bad Company fans might not be aware he co-wrote and recorded with the band Free, “All Right Now!”
I recommend that if they’re in your area, go check out the show. You won’t regret it!