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NIGHT RANGER Live In New Bedford, Massachusetts

By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Sunday, August 24, 2014 @ 10:19 AM


At The Zeiterion Theater

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Despite living just 25 minutes away from the Zeiterion Theater for nearly my entire life, I had never attended a show there. This despite the fact that the venue has hosted a variety of events for what seems like forever. But when I saw the advertisement in the newspaper announcing that NIGHT RANGER would be coming to "The Z", I knew I would be going.

On the night of Wednesday August 20th, 2014 I was able to knock another band off the long list of groups I'd never seen live before.

The local blues rock act SARA LEKETA AND THE PROBLEMATIX opened the show and while I was completely unfamiliar with their music, it was a decent set from them, though at times the guitar playing seemed a bit understated for what I would expect from a "rock" act.

When NIGHT RANGER hit the stage, the energy level crackling through the air became that much more electric. That energy didn't seem to translate to the rather lazy ass crowd though. Until the encore began, almost the entire crowd remained glued to their seats. SAY WHAT? How do you not stand for the headline act. So people like me (2nd row dead center stage) were stuck sitting down because we didn't want to listen to the whiners who didn't get up and rock out.

The lack of a visual response from the otherwise very appreciative crowd didn't deter the band though. Jack Blades had a cocksure stage presence, he knew he was in command out there as the musical ringmaster and made sure to orchestrate things accordingly. It wasn't cocky, but rather a consummate professional live performance demeanor.

The band hit the stage and launched into "Touch Of Madness", which got things off to a rocking start. The total stranger sitting next to me had seen the band a number of times over the years and still loves this song so much that he was yelling at the top of his lungs from the get go.

After a sublime "Sing Me Away", NIGHT RANGER then kicked into "Four In The Morning" before a stage banter break with Jack Blades asking the crowd if they'd heard about DAMN YANKEES, etc. After some back and forth with the crowd, the band played the DAMN YANKEES song "Coming Of Age". I saw the original band perform that song back in the day but this was just as good given the level of guitar playing and the fact that despite some of the audio getting lost in the mix at a couple of points in the show, the vocals sounded superb.

The soundtrack hit "Secret Of My Success" remains to me one of the more underappreciated songs of the band's catalog and during the show at "The Z" it was proven to me again. Just a nice rocking rendition.

Drummer Kelly Keagy (repeatedly referred to by Blades as one of the five greatest singing drummers of all time...he never did say who he thought the other four were) sang the lead on "Sentimental Street" and did a fine job. When Keagy released a solo album a few years back I remember being impressed by it. He manages to do a great job singing despite having one of more unassuming stage presences for a rocker.

Next up came a cover of the Ozzy song "Crazy Train". It was preceded by Blades telling the story of how guitarist Brad Gillis played with Ozzy after the death of Randy Rhoads, so on and so forth. And then Gillis laid waste to the venue with more guitar pyrotechnics as Jack Blades and the rest of the band carried on with the rest of the song.

Blades stopped the proceedings before the next song to talk about how the band is still writing new music and that to stop creating means you die inside. Afterwards, the band played the title track to the new CD, "High Road", and it sounded great.

A fiery rendition of the early NIGHT RANGER track "Eddie's Comin' Out Tonight" kept the band's guitar bonafides front and center. And they followed that up with a second DAMN YANKEES song, "High Enough".

And this is where I had to wonder why the band would insist on playing essentially three covers during their live set. I know that individual band members were involved in the original versions of the songs but after the Blades banter about writing new music, I wanted to hear more actual NIGHT RANGER music. They could've played some older stuff ("Rumors In The Air", anyone?) or they could've spotlighted a couple more tracks from the High Road album. It isn't that I didn't like hearing the covers they played, but more NIGHT RANGER tracks would've been better in my thinking.

For the most part, the stage banter was a prepackaged set of things to say (other reviews I've read of the band's live shows have included the same wording I heard at the show), but when the band was about to play "Goodbye", Jack Blades told the story of a friend he had growing up. Seems they were friends until about 19 years of age before they went their separate ways. The friend actually ended up living in New Bedford but had passed away two years prior. He dedicated the song to his friend while pointing out that the man's wife and daughter were in the audience. That is a hell of a thing for them to hear so good on Blades for that.

It struck me funny how keyboardist Eric Levy managed to almost disappear into the background despite having such a large portion of musical responsibility given the abundance of keyboards in the songs. Hidden behind the do-rag and dark glasses, he was the unapproachable man in black until Jack Blades made sure to include him in the festivities whether through introduction or stage storytelling.

The band closed out the regular portion of their set with back to back rockers "When You Close Your Eyes" and "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" (which took a musical side trip into a brief cover rendition of DEEP PURPLE's "Highway Star").

A quick exit of the stage and then suddenly the crowd remembered they should be on their feet as the band came back on stage with Kelly Keagy taking the mic as the apparently long awaited (by the crowd) performance of the band's monster hit "Sister Christian" began. Once the cheers for the power ballad died down a little, NIGHT RANGER then brought the night to an end with their foot stomping show stopper "(You Can Still) Rock In America".

All in all, despite a couple of misgivings I had about the set list, this was an amazing show. I felt the electric buzz of a live show throughout the night. What made the show even more special was that being five feet from the stage, as guitarists Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra came to the very edge of the stage, I could see their fingers flying over the fret boards as they played note after note with wild abandon.

Speaking of Hoekstra, after seeing him on That Metal Show, I'd really become enamored of his playing. Getting to see him so up close and personal in a live concert setting made it even more amazing to see him play. Not taking anything away from Gillis of course, but Hoekstra was on my side of the stage a bit more so I got to see his work more on the night.

As it turns out, I'm also really glad I saw the band on August 20th, because less than 24 hours later Hoekstra announced that he would be leaving the band (as later revealed, to join WHITESNAKE). I would've hated myself if I'd missed out on the opportunity to see him in NIGHT RANGER.

If NIGHT RANGER ends up being the only rock concert I see this year, I'll be fine with that. They put on one hell of a live show and you'd be foolish to pass up this hugely entertaining night on the town.

SET LIST:

  • "Touch Of Madness"
  • "Sing Me Away"
  • "Four In The Morning"
  • "Coming Of Age"
  • "Secret Of My Success"
  • "Sentimental Street"
  • "Crazy Train"
  • "High Road"
  • "Eddie's Comin' Out Tonight"
  • "High Enough"
  • "Goodbye"
  • "When You Close Your Eyes"
  • "Don't Tell Me You Love Me"
  • "Sister Christian"
  • "You Can Still Rock In America"


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