Can’t Get Enough of the Bad Company Swan Song Tour.
Bad Company rock Leeds on their opening night back in England on what could be their final ‘Swan Song’ tour together.
Anticipation and emotions are incredibly high tonight, as this is the first night on English soil for a number of years that Bad Company have managed to get it together to play. Even their American reunion earlier in the year didn’t have all remaining members attending, guitarist Mick Ralphs doesn’t like to stray too far from his UK home, and so his slot was filled in the USA by the equally brilliant Rich Robinson (ex Black Crowes now solo).
But before Messrs Rodgers, Kirke and Ralphs tread the boards at the flashy First Direct Arena in Leeds we have an hour or so of another ageing rocker – Richie Sambora, having separated from Bon Jovi he is testing a new live partnership with Orianthi (legendary top female guitarist from Alice Cooper and Michael Jackson fame), and imaginatively calling it RSO (Richie Sambora Orianthi).
RSO kick things off with a cover of U2’s “When Love Comes to Town” but early doors it is clear that there is a problem with the sound, Sambora’s guitar appears to be turned up to 12 and drowns everything else out. This is an all seated gig and the audience are probably average age around 50, and you’re in Yorkshire, so when you clearly hear one-person shout “Sort your f##king sound out pal, or get off the stage” after only the second song, you know there is something wrong. Sadly, Sambora ignored the warning and continued, and we all prayed that he pulled out an acoustic guitar or just let Orianthi take over. The gods answered, and after a shockingly painful “Lay Your Hands on Me”, Orianthi stepped out of the shadows and blew the hall away with some blistering guitar work on one of her songs “Heaven in this Hell”, how apt!
Richie Sambora re-appeared wearing a hat, slightly incoherent, shirt opened – showing far too much bulging flesh around the gut and continued to tell us all how long he had been on the road etc. Guitar still turned up too high but thankfully the tracks become more slow blues tunes than cranked up rockers. “Stranger in this Town” was enjoyable, it’s around 7 and a half minutes and didn’t burst your ear drums or more likely break a hearing aid. After another belting Orianthi solo tune we get the unmistakeable acoustic start of “Wanted Dead or Alive” and Sambora straddles a double headed guitar and delivers a quite blistering solo at the perfect moment, redemption perhaps.
If you ignore the vocal delivery tonight then it’s a great ending, but if RSO are to be taken seriously, then some hard work and honest talking needs to happen. With no sign of an album as yet this may just be a bridge to other individual solo efforts and it will be Orianthi that I’ll be following closer in the future.
With some short bursts of dry ice from the front of the stage Bad Company emerge to the audience and “Live for the Music” belts out of the speakers with some renewed energy. Yes, the average age of the three remaining original members of the band is around 70, but Paul Rodgers still has one of the finest blues vocals of any generation and can show a few newbies how to twirl that mic stand around (a dying art!).
Mick Ralphs is dressed more like a championship darts player than a rock guitarist of superb pedigree, he doesn’t stray too far from his spot on the stage, but when given the opportunity to let fly, the tone he gets on his (mainly Gibson) guitars is one to cherish live. Originally in Mott the Hoople, Ralphs continues to deliver solo after solo of sheer greatness on stage and backed by Rodgers vocals it defines everything great about 70’s British Blues.
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” which gets an early outing in the setlist has the crowd moving in their seats and fists pumping in the air. One audience member shouts for “All Right Now” and Rodgers has to remind him “that was Free and not Bad Company and we like to keep things separate”. Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke were both in Free before Bad Co and I have to admit I’d love to hear a few of their classics belted out tonight too.
They surprise everyone by saying they are going to play a new tune that they have been kicking around. “Troubleshooter” is a rocker of a tune starting with some distinct acoustic chords and building further, so, does that mean this isn’t the end of the road for this classic 70’s supergroup, who knows?
A poignant moment when “Shooting Star” is played and the projection at the back of the stage shows so many rock heroes lost too young – Jim Morrison, Keith Moon, Phil Lynott, Hendrix etc. and then we are all on our feet for “Can’t Get Enough”, it’s the one track that every trad pub rock band has played, and tonight they show the audience how it’s supposed to be done in an arena. Plumes of dry ice and Paul Rodgers shaking tambourines and twirling mic stands a sight and sound not to be forgotten.
An encore of “Bad Company” where everything is slowed down and Paul Rodgers has to stand behind a piano at the back, but it’s so clear from this track that the blues preachers vocal chords are as good now as they were when he recorded it in 1974. Follow that with a rocking “Rock Steady” as encore number 2 and with a final bow they are off. Two more weeks of this tour, so get a ticket quick as this could be your last chance to catch them.