Artist: Night Ranger
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club. (New York, NY)
Label: VH1 Classic Records
I fear that I am dating myself a little too much for my own good when I say that I clearly remember the first time that I had ever heard of Night Ranger. It was decades ago and a couple of the bands videos were in consistent rotation on the then fledgling cable network called MTV. My friends from out of state were getting it but NYC did not at the time and when I went for a visit we found ourselves glued to the station as “You Can Still Rock In America” was blasted at maximum volume. While not the bands first video, it was my own first exposure to them and I have been a fan ever since. It was easy to see this happening for anyone who rallied behind the band based on the catchiness of their material and its great melodic hooks and often memorable lyrics. Fast forward to 2009 where we find the legendary Hard Rock band performing for the very first time at B.B. King Blues Club for a very diverse audience. The show would only feature them on the bill and would start early and I had to say that the mood of the room seemed full of excitement as the guys took the stage. Here is what transpired if you happened to miss out.
The band hit the stage after a very interesting tape lead in and started off strong with “This Boy Needs To Rock” from their “Seven Wishes” CD. From the looks of it, the guys were having a blast from the very first moment and the energy level of the tune was pumping so much that they managed to slip in a few bars of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”. Jack Blades was not playing games this evening and showed us all very early on why the band is so admired. It’s been a long time since I have seen them in concert but I was happy to report that they sounded incredible in terms of the musicianship and vocal harmonies that were coming through the PA system. “Sing Me Away” would be the next one up and find the whole club singing along with the band. Many fans remember that this number was sung by drummer Kelly Keagy who I always personally felt had a great voice as well and showed many drummers of the world that they could be more useful to a lineup by giving it a go themselves. In 2008 the band released “Hole In The Sun” in the US and the recording was a strong one. The show this evening would only find one tune played and that came by way of “You’re Gonna Hear It From Me”. The rest of the set would be the bands expected classics instead of any additional new material. I was happy to find them delivering “Rumors In The Air” since that was always a favorite of mine that fell outside of the mainstream radio hits and then we found a very animated Jack Blades talking like a man with too many Red Bulls or Starbucks coffees inside him as he led us up to their inclusion for the Michael J. Fox film “The Secret Of My Success” by playing the tune that bears the same name. The liveliness of the band continued as Blades prompted everyone into the singing of the “Na Na” song by offering up more than one such tune. Following the chorus originally delivered by the band Steam we all offered vocals on Journey’s “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’” and then into the finale of “Hey Jude” which Jack referred to as the ultimate “Na Na” song.
The hits kept coming via the soft “Sentimental Street” which while never one of my own favorites was highly appreciated by the crowd. They started it off slow and built it up to the rousing finish. There was more talking as Jack and Brad Gillis talked about their early days back in the clubs and how the song “Eddie’s Coming Out Tonight” from the first album was actually written for a friend of theirs named Eddie. They took it down a notch by delivering some acoustic magic that really had no title per se and Blades amused us by saying how it was written by Brad and Joel while he and Kelly enjoyed wine from the vineyard that he lives on. The others worked while they drank wine. It got a healthy chuckle from the crowd to say the least. The discussion about everyone’s first show came up around this point and when they asked Kelly what his first concert was he said it was Jim Morrison and the Doors while Brad’s was the one and only B.B. King. I didn’t recall what Blades said his was because when he asked guitarist Joel Hoekstra about his own, the musician began playing a Maiden riff. This got a fair amount of “Maiden” chants from the crowd which I never expected. When they got to asking keyboardist Christian Matthew Cullen what his first show was, he smiled and started to play Van Halen’s “Jump” which found a quick thinking Kelly hitting his cymbals in perfect time to the riff even though he was at the time a few feet away from them. I had to say that these new additions to the bands lineup were excellent and while some fans wished that Alan Fitzgerald and Jeff Watson were present at least we had the primary song-writing core of Blades, Gillis and Keagy to enjoy. Guitarist Hoekstra is also performing in the hit Broadway musical “Rock Of Ages” and it’s a show that I plan to see one day if time and finances allow. It’s been getting rave reviews and features a Night Ranger song in its repertoire. A surprise came when they delivered an acoustic rendition of the Damn Yankees hit “High Enough”, and one could only wonder if this is a hint about a reunion of that particular band. If it was, Blades was not letting the cat out of the bag tonight. Another favorite of mine is “Goodbye” which was prefaced by Blades telling us how the song was written for his own brother who had died of an overdose. I never knew this about the track and now feel its words are even more powerful.
For some reason the bands “When You Close Your Eyes” always brings me back to a particular time in my life and I am sure that most of the fans in the audience tonight also find that many Night Ranger tunes do this for them. This is my official song that makes the heart strings tug a little bit harder than some others do. My friend said his own was the earlier played “Sing Me Away” and how his wife was teasing him about it. “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” was nice and heavy live and with this one you knew the end of the show was coming soon as the bands two biggest numbers had yet to be played. Kelly asked the crowd if they wanted to sing with him tonight and led us into an audience begun “Sister Christian”. I liked joining in but was glad that the band would take over and finish it. I am no longer too impressed by being at gigs where they let the audience sing a full tune as that is not what the ticket price was meant to feature for most of the fans. Especially when so many of these folks are just screaming at the top of their lungs instead of really trying to give it a go. As the song ended Jack Blades delivered the line that New York City and the crowd at B.B. King’s proved to him that you could still Rock in America and that song would be the grand finale. The horns from some fans were raised high in the air and the rest of the attendees were pushing their fists to the ceiling. The show was seated and while this distressed some fans who wanted to rock up close and personal, there was no one in their seats for the last few numbers. I absorbed the show from a number of vantage points tonight and had to say that everyone was focused on the group and the amazing hits that they delivered. They did sound great without question and you knew that some of the guitarists in the room went back home to dig out their Night Ranger stuff to see if they could learn the techniques of Mr. Brad Gillis who was really playing up a storm this evening. He was also tossing out guitar picks that sported the Night Ranger logo on them and were well appreciated by any fans that caught them.
The great observation was in the age diversity of the crowd this evening and of course there were some families here tonight it would seem. My guess is that some of the “My Generation” fans had brought the next wave of rockers along with them to provide example of just how good the music from the Big Eighties had been. When I returned home I compared notes of the set list against that of the bands Greatest Hits CD and they pretty much played the whole thing barring one number. Noticeable omissions for me were “Touch Of Madness” and “Why Does Love Have To Change” which I felt could have been added to make the show a little longer and because these are ripping tunes as well. Also it was a bit of a disappointment that they only chose to give us one new song from the recently released “Hole In The Sun”. The material on the recording is rather sound and I felt did not show the band as dated but instead moving forward with their hard core fans. I’m not going to complain too much based on the overall strength of the set list and how it delivered one rocking hit after another and really kept the audience involved. Blades said that they will be coming back and you know that many of the people in the room will be doing the same when the details come to pass. Thanks guys for an amazing time and for giving us so many great tunes that have withstood the tests of time.
1. This Boy Needs To Rock (w/Highway Star tease)
2. Sing Me Away
3. You’re Gonna Hear It From Me
4. Rumors In The Air
5. Secret Of My Success
6. Sentimental Street
7. Eddies Coming Out Tonight
8. LA No Name
9. High Enough (Damn Yankees)
11. Four In The Morning
12. When You Close Your Eyes
13. Dont Tell Me You Love Me
14. Sister Christian – encore
15. (You Can Still) Rock In America – encore finale
Tonight would be the first time ever that Night Ranger performed at this favorite venue of ours so how could we let seeing their name in lights not be forever immortalized on the official site blog for PiercingMetal.com
Backstage after the show we caught up with guitarist Ricky Byrd and Night Ranger’s Joel Hoekstra. You might remember Ricky as being one of the members of the legendary Blackhearts (the band that featured Joan Jett). The guys let us snap this photo of them which was cool.
Official Website: http://www.nightranger.com