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NIGHT RANGER/Dante Fox
Islington O2 Academy, London 4 June 2012
people's most memorable gig of last year was Night Ranger's first UK
show in 26 years at Islington Academy, where against the odds, with
bassist and singer Jack Blades in pain and a delay at customs, they
delivered a sensationally energetic performance. Check back to GRTR!'s
gigs of 2011 and there it is at No 2 in our poll.
a year later they were good to their promise to return, although melodic
rock fans based further north must have been cursing a solitary UK date
in London on Jubilee weekend. Still another packed house was present and
there was an audible buzz in the atmosphere, rather than blasť fans
going through the motions.
Fox have now been going for over 15 years on and off and warmed
things up nicely with a solid performance: Sue Willetts has never seemed
the most comfortable frontwoman, but on old favourites like 'Under the
City Lights', 'Lost' and 'Lonely Heart' and 'Firing My Heart' she
sounded better than ever and there was even a touch of the Ann Wilsons
to her soaring tones.
Tim Manford always gives his all although he did seem shrouded in smoke
most of the gig. 'Walking the Line' had a chorus with a massive hook,
while they finished with a note perfect cover of Stevie Lange's
'Remember', bringing back memories of a now largely forgotten song that
used to fill the dance floors at rock clubs. Roll on their Firefest
appearance in the autumn.
stage at 9:15 to the strains of AC/DC (is it an unwritten rule that all
gigs must start this way?) Night Ranger opened in surprise fashion with
the relatively heavy riffing of new song 'Lay it On Me', followed by
'Sing Me Away' from their debut with drummer Kelly Keagy singing and
some twin guitar duels.
This was a
reminder that, despite being spoken of in hushed tones in AOR circles
and known in the USA for their hit ballads, NR have always been a hard
rocking band and it was noticeable Eric Levy's keyboards on songs like
'Rumours in the Air' and 'Seven Wishes' were buried much lower in the
mix than the studio originals.
guitarist Brad Gillis once had the unenviable task of succeeding the
late Randy Rhoads in Ozzy Osbourne's band and showed his rapid fire
paces on a cover of 'Crazy Train'.
having witnessed Lynyrd Skynyrd do a very predictable set 24 hours
earlier, one of the most pleasing aspects of this show was that the set
list was substantially shaken up from last year's show.
highlight was hearing not one but two songs from Jack's Damn Yankees
days in a 'Coming of Age' rawer than on record, and the mega ballad
'High Enough', on which the band's harmony vocals ensured that Tommy
Shaw's high pitched tones that are so integral to the original were
makes a Night Ranger show so special is the almost childlike delight
they show on stage. Brad is a master of pulling faces as he burns up and
down the fretboard, and he and his equally able guitar partner Joel
Hoekstra regularly cavorted across the stage as they swapped twin leads
and solos, most notably on Eddie's 'Coming Out Tonight'.
diminutive Jack is constantly wisecracking, and was gently ribbing Kelly
as he came to front of stage to sing the ballads 'Let Him Run' and
'Goodbye', until the latter burst into full power ballad mode with
crashing cymbals and power chords.
bands this bonhomie is merely a facade, but they genuinely seem to be
having a great time and that rubs off on the crowd, who were gleefully
joining in the 'na-na's' on their old 'Secret of My Success' movie
Up in California' was one of only two songs from last year's 'Somewhere
in California' album, but is vintage NR which fitted perfectly into the
set, which reached ever higher peaks with 'Touch of Madness', Brad
acting out the title with his frenzied soloing and face pulling, the
super catchy 'Four in the Morning' and a joyous 'When You Close Your
Eyes' which brought back loads of memories of discovering them and other
American acts in the eighties for me, and I am sure many others in a
predominantly 40 plus crowd.
crowning glory was their debut classic 'Don't Tell Me You Love Me', with
its irresistible chorus and - after a snatch of 'Highway Star' - its
frenzied guitar climax.
surprises for the encores, with Kelly introducing the band before
singing their big US hit 'Sister Christian', given the full blown power
ballad treatment, followed by the other side of their repertoire in the
anthemic 'You Can Still Rock in America', as the set weighed in at a
generous hour and three quarters.
it can never be as good as the first time, but post gig consensus seemed
to be that with this performance, Night Ranger may even have eclipsed
last year's show. Hopefully, the response will encourage them to come to
these shores more often - tell your friends they are not to be missed.
photos by Andy Nathan