Sunday, June 01, 2014

Paul Rodgers at the Easide Cannery Ballroom - May 31, 2014

When I was a kid listening to the AM radio, the opening chords for "All Right Now" was damn near a revelation! Free's heavy blues sound with Paul Kossoff's monster guitar sound and Paul Rodgers fantastic, soulful voice (not to mention the rock steady rhythm section of bassist Andy Fraser and drummer Simon Kirke) quickly became a fave with my band of r'n'r freaks. When Free broke up and Rodgers and Kirke hooked up with Mott The Hoople (another fave) guitarist Mick Ralphs and King Crimson (definitely the oddity here) bassist Boz Burrell and their debut album exploded, we were hooked on that, as well. I never got to see either band, but did see Rodgers sing with Queen a number of years ago (which worked better than I expected) and now I was able to see him on his own, thanks to Rick Harris Band bassist, Van Hamilton, with whom I have played a number of Free and Bad Co. songs!

Rodgers' band is a simple 3 piece - guitar, bass, drums - made up of superior musicians who were all able to capture his bands' sound well - although personally I would have liked the guitarist to be using a Gibson through his Marshall stack rather than the more modern, metally axe he had. Minor point, though.

Opening with "Rock'n'Roll Fantasy", he had the crowd of old fans (I felt like I was one of the younger people there!) going right from the start. Paul's voice was virtually unchanged - remarkable after the number of years that he has been singing - and sounded amazing. There were only a couple of songs that I wasn't familiar with, the following "Live For the Music" being one of them. But then came "Running With the Pack" with Rodgers playing piano standing up, and the surprise of the night, Free's "Mr. Big", written by bassist Fraser so that he could have a bass solo. I didn't catch Rodger's bassist's name, but he did a terrific job with this - his fingers were flying over the fretboard, but it was still tasteful - very impressive!

Rodgers has a new album out, The Royal Sessions, recorded at Memphis' Royal Studios that is an homage to the great Stax artists and he did a couple of songs from that, the iconic "I Thank You" and Albert King's classic "Born Under a Bad Sign". Back to Bad Co. numbers after that with "Burnin' Sky" (complete with thunder and lightning effects), "Movin' On" and "Feel Like Makin' Love", which had the guitarist switching from mandolin for the verses to guitar for the choruses, which totally worked. The crowd were on their feet and singing along with these songs, and many others.

Another one that I was not familiar with was "She's Gone" but "Shooting Star" had everyone singing again and "Can't Get Enough" knocked everyone out. Of course, he got an encore, something from the new album that was a heavy blues re-working of "Rollin' and Tumblin" and then, of course, "All Right Now". There was a 2nd encore, with Rodgers returning to the piano for a ravin' "Bad Company".

I wouldn't have minded a few more Free songs, but overall, a pretty great set list of his classic songs, all done well. The Ballroom at the Eastside Cannery is a nice sized room - probably a couple thousand people - with good stage, lighting and (especially surprising) sound. None of the "lead bass drum" syndrome here - the soundman (probably Rodgers') did a super job of keeping everything in the proper r'n'r balance, without being overly loud. Most of the bands I'm seeing advertised here are cover bands, but wouldn't mind seeing more acts here.

(Again, sorry for the crappy pictures - didn't bring my real camera and my phone doesn't do well in these situations)