Concert: Night Ranger in Chandler, AZ
With the release of the film "Rock of Ages," '80s music has become relevant again, much to the delight of every tight jean-wearing, mullet-haired fan (and others who won't admit a penchant for pop/rock gems).
Night Ranger, whose timeless song "Sister Christian" kicks off the Tom Cruise flick, proved the decade's tunes still rock America's core during a Saturday (7/7) show at Wild Horse Pass Casino and Hotel in Chandler, AZ. Lead singer/bassist Jack Blades guaranteed that.
"We promise you a hell of a Night Ranger show tonight," Blades said early in the set.
The California-bred band kicked off the nearly two-hour show with "Lay It On Me," a track from its 2011 album "Somewhere in California." The music sounded timely and fit in perfectly with the evening of hits that included "Sister Christian," "(You Can Still) Rock in America" and "The Secret of My Success."
For lead singer/bassist Jack Blades it was a sort of homecoming. His parents moved to Scottsdale, AZ, after living in California. He recalled previous shows in the area, including last year's triple bill of Night Ranger, Foreigner and Journey, and a show in 1983 when the band played in Mesa. Night Ranger pulled its tour bus in front of Blades' parents' house and had a barbecue.
Like the '83 tour, Blades and the rest of the band -- guitarists Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra, keyboardist Eric Levy and drummer/singer Kelly Keagy -- showed a tremendous amount of energy. Blades jumped on the drum riser to rock out with Keagy during "Touch of Madness." Hoekstra, who appears in the film "Rock of Ages," and Gillis played up the axman reputation by playing with their backs to each other, and rocking out while facing the crowd.
But Saturday's show wasn't limited to Night Ranger tunes. Blades told a mostly unknowing crowd that Gillis formerly played with Ozzy Osbourne, after the unexpected death of guitarist Randy Rhodes.
"We're sure glad he came back," Blades said.
Night Ranger, however, returned to the Osbourne topic and played a pretty formidable cover of "Crazy Train," with Blades on lead vocals and Gillis on guitar. At the end of the song, Gillis kissed his own hand and pointed to the sky while muttering the word "Randy."
"We're just going to have fun up here, is that OK?" Blades said to lighten the mood.
Night Ranger continued with its version of "Coming of Age," a song by Damn Yankees, another band Blades fronted. It was the first of two Damn Yankees songs; later in the set, Night Ranger performed "High Enough," with Gillis playing the Ted Nugent part and Keagy singing Tommy Shaw's vocal harmonies.
Speaking of Keagy, Blades said the drummer, who was playing with a borrowed kit because he said Fed Ex lost his set, used to perform in a Doors cover band as a teenager. If the audience chanted "Jim," for Jim Morrison, Keagy just might sing a tune by the rock legends. Night Ranger, with Keagy on vocals, kicked into "Roadhouse Blues," much to the delight of the crowd. Keagy has an uncanny knack for banging on the drums and singing effortlessly. He also fronted "Sentimental Street" and the encore's "Sister Christian."
Blades took the opportunity to announce that Night Ranger will have a new acoustic live DVD that was recorded at Bob Weir's house for a fall release. It is also prepping a new CD, set to hit stores in 2013.
"When you stop creating, that's when you start dying," Blades said.
In terms of on-stage behavior and between-song banter, the show resembled Night Ranger of old. It was truly a treat.
"Lay It On Me"
"Sing Me Away"
"Touch of Madness"
"Rumors in the Air"
"Crazy Train" (Ozzy Osbourne cover)
"Coming of Age" (Damn Yankees cover)
"Growing Up in California"
"Roadhouse Blues" (Doors cover)
"The Secret of My Success"
"Eddie's Comin' Out Tonight"
"High Enough" (Damn Yankees cover)
"Four in the Morning"
"When You Close Your Eyes"
"Don't Tell Me You Love Me"
"(You Can Still) Rock in America"
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