Ok, I’ll admit it. The last time I saw a full Night Ranger headlining set was back in 1985 when the band was touring on the success of its third album, “Seven Wishes” — Does anyone else remember bassist/vocalist Jack Blades rising out of the genie lamp to begin the night’s festivities?
Although I’ve seen Night Ranger many more times over the years, its always been when they were teamed up on a bill with two or three other bands. And for as much as I will always love hearing their biggest hits, I lamented never having the opportunity to hear some of the earlier material that always appealed to me. Album cuts that never quite made it mainstream. But Night Ranger’s performance last night at BB King Blues Club in New York City was a trip through three decades of rock and for me personally, some much needed therapy.
Opening the set was the fitting “Touch of Madness” – a single from the band’s monster album “Midnight Madness”. Next, the band immediately took us thirty years into the future. Performing “St. Bartholomew” (from the band’s brand new album “High Road”) for the very first time live. Blades would go on to joke about “sneaking” that one into the set, but the fans enthusiastic response indicated they knew otherwise.
From there, Night Ranger took us on a whirlwind journey through time and quite a bit of their early catalog. Performing nearly half of the “Dawn Patrol”, “Midnight Madness” and “Seven Wishes” albums as well as tracks from Blade’s days with Damn Yankees.
The band also brought us forward into the new millennium with “Lay It On Me” from 2011’s “Somewhere in California” as well as the title cut of their current album, “High Road”.
There was no doubt that the band would also include their biggest hits in their New York City set and the songs “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”, “Sister Christian” and “When You Close Your Eyes” were met with equal adulation.
Bassist/Vocalist Jack Blades is the quintessential showman. Whether he’s introducing a new song or asking the audience if they’d like to come out on the road with the band, Blades is in his comfort zone when he’s out front.
You’d be hard pressed to find a better drummer/vocalist combination in music than Kelly Keagy. Seeing him hit the high notes for “Sentimental Street” or “Sing Me Away” while continuing to keep an infectious beat is still mind boggling.
Keyboardist Eric Levy was absolutely brilliant in staying true to the band’s classic sound and has become a staple of Night Ranger.
Guitarists Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra (a New York City native) are a force to be reckoned with. The duo trade off guitar leads with ease and perfection. Gillis laying down the most flawless, tasty licks while Hoekstra literally felt right at home. Firing up the crowd with his own guitar prowess and the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. He was glad to be there, and so was I.
I’ve been a Night Ranger fan since the band’s early days and can still recall the first time I heard “You Can Still (Rock In America) on my neighbor’s cassette recorder. For me, it was a game changing moment.
Much the same as last night’s show at BB King’s.
Night Ranger Set List (BB King Blues Club NYC)
Touch of Madness
St. Bartholomew (Live Debut)
Four in the Morning
Lay It On Me
Coming of Age (Damn Yankees cover)
Sing Me Away
High Enough (Damn Yankees cover)
When You Close Your Eyes
Don’t Tell Me You Love Me
(You Can Still) Rock in America