By Thom Jennings
Niagara Gazette — Thousands of fans were able to live out their rock and roll fantasies with Bad Company sold-out show Tuesday night at Artpark. The band, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, proved that they still know how to thrill a crowd. The temperature outside was sweltering but the band was even hotter on stage.
The show began at 8 p.m. sharp. Paul Rodgers and company strolled out on stage to Booker T & the M.G’s “Green Onions” before launching into “Rock N’ Roll Fantasy.” From the start, the show epitomized what makes rock concerts great. They had the simple backdrop with the Bad Co. logo on it behind them, the fog machines going intermittently, and a front man that still has some serious swagger.
Even though Rodgers and Bad Company’s first tenure together lasted from 1974-1982 and produced a mere six albums. Nevertheless, they had little trouble putting together a 14-song set that had the audience “dancing in the aisles and singing out loud.”
Rodgers looked fit, trim and waltzed around the stage as if he owned the place, and for an evening, he did. What makes Rodgers one of the best rock lead singers of all-time is his ability to draw the crowd into the show, by either allowing them to sing a part of the song or just acknowledging them throughout the show.
The best audience participation number of the evening occurred during “Shooting Star” when the crowd took over for a huge chunk of the song, after which Rodger’s commented “You guys are the loudest crowd we have had yet.”
Musically the band is still a tight unit. Mick Ralphs may not be the most dynamic guitar player to watch, but he steadily delivered the trademark Bad Company guitar licks all night, and seemed to be having a great time onstage.
Bad Co.’s other guitarist, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Howard Leese filled in the gaps, and it is clear that Ralphs and Leese have developed a solid chemistry onstage. They also don’t showboat, they just get the job done.
For the most part the band stuck to the traditional arrangements of their songs, with the notable exception of “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” which began on mandolin instead of acoustic guitar and featured a harmonica solo in the mid-section.
They relied heavily on material from their first album, performing six of the eight songs from it, and the last four songs of the evening were all from the debut album.
The main set ended appropriately with “Can’t Get Enough” shortly after 9 p.m. which meant that most people in the venue had not gotten enough music at that point, although considering how hot it was outside there may have been some people that were thankful it was a short set.
For their first encore, Rodgers sat at the piano and sang “Bad Company,” then followed it up with a stellar version of “Rock Steady.” Even though the songs are some of the band’s most popular, Bad Company managed to do what many bands aren’t able to pull off, and that is too keep the energy level high all night without a lot of peaks and valleys.
The final song of the night was a personal favorite I never thought I would get to see the band perform, “Seagull.” For the song Rodgers was flanked by the other two original members of the band, Mick Ralphs and drummer Simon Kirke. It was a nice ending.
This was the third consecutive sellout for Tuesday in the Park and probably one of the most energetic crowds of the three, at least in terms of singing and dancing. The audience and the band made a hot and sticky summer night entertaining, and we were all in good company.Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.