Last Night: Bad Company at Seminole Hard Rock
Friday, August 8, 2008
Seminole Hard Rock Live, Hollywood
Unless you’re a devoted fan – or you listened to a lot of radio during the ‘70s and early ‘80s -- the prospect of a Bad Company reunion wouldn’t necessarily inspire the same kind of crazed anticipation that accompanied, say, Led Zeppelin’s recent regrouping in London. Maybe that’s because Bad Company never attained more than the status of chart champs, as opposed to being the mystical demigods Zeppelin saw themselves as early on.
Nevertheless, considering Bad Company’s superstar status – a designation derived from the previous pedigrees of its members (who segued from Free, Mott the Hoople and King Crimson, all A-list outfits in their day) – a one-time reunion, in our own backyard no less, did at least qualify as an auspicious occasion. Besides, it seems that just about everything retro becomes somehow worthy of recognition these days.
Or at least that’s what the band would have us believe. Aside from a brief reunion ten years ago, this was the first time the original members (singer Paul Rodgers, guitarist Mick Ralphs and drummer Simon Kirke, sans bassist Boz Burell who passed away in 2006) opted to regroup. Much was made of the fact that it was only a one-time reunion, although the audience was informed at the outset that the proceedings were being recorded for a live CD and DVD marked for release later this year or early next. So presumably that could bode well for future activity. A bit of cheerleading prior to the band’s appearance served to provide the producers with some B roll, and remind those who had yet to fall victim to the overall enthusiasm, that yes, this was indeed an event of special significance.
I must confess at the outset that while I always enjoyed Bad Company’s output – specifically their signature songs as opposed to their albums – I never deemed them one of those must-see bands. They were a solid workingman outfit, blessed with a credible, ruggedly-voiced front man, solid musicianship and catchy tunes built on reliable rhythms and catchy choruses. These Bad boys were good, but not exceptional. Not the Beatles, or Zeppelin, or the Stones… but more akin to Journey, Styx or REO Speedwagon in terms of proficiency and prowess. Still, they were solid, and that’s exactly what they proved to be in concert. Kirke still provides perfect pacing, Ralphs still plays a serviceable lead guitar, and Rodgers, who arguably remains the band’s biggest asset, still retains a fine set of pipes, his bluesy growl none the worse for wear despite doing double duty these days subbing for the late Freddie Mercury in Queen. Indeed, it’s Rodgers who best qualifies for the status of Rock Legend, a distinction inherited from being at the helm of Free. Never mind that Bad Company is still his greatest claim to fame. A solo career and the short-lived outfits, the Firm and the Law, proved no competition.
It’s no surprise then, that on this particular night, the band would live up to their reputation and would neither raise nor lower the bar. It was, in a word, entertaining, but hardly the stuff ‘o legend. Opening with their theme song and ideal intro, “Bad Company,” Rodgers pounded out the ominous chords on piano, flanked by Kirke and Ralphs on one side, and a pair of enthusiastic stringers on the other. Surprisingly, the back-up players exhibited more energy than the charter members, a scenario that would repeat itself throughout the hour and a half set. Given that the Rodgers, Ralphs and Kirke are all rapidly closing in on 60, they resembled more the confident old masters than the cocky young bucks that fueled their image of old. Dressed casually – Rodgers looking especially svelte and still Rock Star cool -- while refraining from any sort of posing, posturing or excess communication with the crowd, they proceeded to run through a set of songs that emphasized their radio wares – “Burnin’ Sky,” “Running with the Pack,” “Live for the Music,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” “Rock Steady,” “Shooting Star” and the inevitable “Can’t Get Enough,” before concluding with their encores “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy,” “Ready for Love,” and “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad.” Nothing unexpected there, which again, more or less lives up to their mantra. But hey, couldn’t they have least tossed in “All Right Now” for the Free fans among us?
If this was a matter of going through the motions, and indeed, they gave that impression, the crowd response was nothing short of adoration, a set-up that ought to have pleased the DVD’s producers. A glitch with Ralph’s guitar during a brief acoustic interlude not withstanding, the array of video cameras and a big screen backdrop will likely more than make up for the lack of onstage acrobatics. Viewing the results in retrospect will probably bring back some fond memories, but whether or not it ignites any electricity remains to be seen. While it was indeed a evening of well aged rock ‘n’ roll, their batteries at best seemed only half charged.
Personal bias: Bad Company don’t break the mold, but do help define it.
Random detail: I couldn’t help but notice the back of a commemorative tee-shirt sported by the guy sitting in front of me. In listing the three original members, it misspelled ‘Simon’ as ‘Simion.’ Odd indeed.
By the way: Bad Company seems to attract more than their short of large sweaty guys of ample girth. Which is fine, but when there’s a chorus line consisting of several of the same, it effectively blocks one’s view.
- Lee Zimmermann