Night Ranger attacked the Hard Rock Rocksino stage like a force of nature – the sold-out crowd had come to rock out – old school style and Jack Blades and the boys did not disappoint.
Very little flash and a ton of substance is part of the reason this band is on its 35th Anniversary Tour – they ruled the 80’s – I can still remember the first time I heard Don’t Tell Me You Love Me on MTV and thinking, “Holy Shit, who are these guys”, not knowing at the time that that song was the first in what would become a roughly 5 year stretch of non-stop hits.
The current line up features 3 original members from their heyday. Jack Blades, Brad Gillis, and Kelly Keagy are all manning their positions and they are as tight and precise and on their game, as they were 35 years ago. I think there has been a long-standing misconception that Jack Blades sings – and don’t get me wrong, he certainly does but a large portion of their portfolio is fronted by drummer Kelly Keagy – sitting behind his kit, which was seated sideways on the stage (that always looks strange to me) he belted out song after song while the capacity crowd sang along word for word.
With that being said – Jack Blades also fronts more than his fair share of the hits and he is a solid, well-versed bass player. Love watching him play.
Guitarist Brad Gillis might just be the most under-appreciated lead guitarist out there right now. I remember seeing Gillis with Ozzy right after Randy Rhoads died – he stepped in on the tour – yeah – he took over Randy Rhoads spot – don’t tell me you don’t think he can play cause I’ll call you a damn liar straight to your face. Brad was on fire Friday night – stalking the stage like a man on a mission – he wailed song after song. A true unappreciated talent and if you’re not familiar with his work – look it up or better yet, next time the band comes around, go see them live. Being able to say you saw Brad Gillis when he was at the top of his game will be something you’ll recount with a smile on your face when the time comes.
Not to hyper-focus on the prowess of Mr. Brad Gillis though – this entire band is about as on point as any I’ve ever seen. Keri Kelli handles rhythm guitar duties and Eric Levy is on the keyboard and they are proudly touting 35 years of rocking our Asses off – they play the old stuff with as much energy and excitement as they did the first time they hit those chords. No sing-along favorite got left in storage, Sing Me Away, Sentimental Street, Four in the Morning, Goodbye, When You Close Your Eyes and of course Sister Christian all made an appearance – hell they even threw in some Damn Yankee songs and a couple other surprises – just because they are that damn good.
As a fan – I had a great time at this show. The crowd was totally into it and threw all that energy right at the band and they reciprocated by giving us all they had. It’s great when you see a band make that kind of connection with their fans at a show – it doesn’t happen as often as one might think but the force was strong on this snowy Friday night in Cleveland.
As a show reviewer – I have to say that this is one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. No flashy stage show, no gimmicks, just five talented musicians sharing their gifts with a couple thousand folks who know now – if they didn’t before that You Can Still Rock In America –Oh Yeah, All Right!