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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Night Ranger - Live in Michigan!

Night Ranger live at the 'Quake on the Lake Event,'
Waterford, MI.
Saturday 17th July, 2010

There’s no doubt – at least in my mind for sure – that Night Ranger these days is more of a live act than an album making band. Their last album ‘Hole in the Sun’ was released back in 2007 and the last studio release before that, ‘Seven’ was about 10 years previous.

OK, in fairness to that, the three main members of the band have kept their individual hand in the game so to speak, with singer / drummer Kelly Keagy having released two very good solo albums ‘Time Passes’ (2001) and ‘I’m Alive’ (2007). Singer / bassist Jack Blades has been involved with writing with anyone and everyone as well as releasing his self titled solo album in 2004, then the Tak Matsumoto Group release the same year and then ‘Influence’ with the (Tommy) Shaw / Blades project in 2007.
Current mainstay and original guitarist Brad Gillis has not been idle either with his second solo release ‘Alligator’ in 2000, as well as involvement with both ex-Dream Theater key’s man Derek Sherinian solo album in 2006 and then an album with hard rockers Vicious Rumors in the same year.

As I say, they’ve clearly not been idle and annually the band Night Ranger is reknowned on the live circuit as still being a good crowd puller.

Tonight perhaps they were a little up against it, as Waterford is a little bit out of the way and certainly not a big, popular live music city in Michigan, as say other locations local to the Detroit area like for example: Mt. Clemens (where the band played last year), St. Clair (They played the year before), Sterling Heights, Clarkston, Royal Oak, etc.
Also tonight, Iron Maiden were in town alongside Dream Theater at Pine Knob music theater, now known as DTE, oh and Alice Cooper was not too far away in Bay City tonight too!

All this aside, they had a show to play and play it they did, even with a few initial sound problems, Night Ranger is an act that don’t get put off playing / performing very easily and with a frontman like Jack Blades, you know it will be a fun event, no matter what!

(Jack Blades with Night Ranger live in Waterford, MI. 17th July, 2010. Photo: Alun Williams) 

The band open with ‘This Boy Needs To Rock’ which does exactly as the title suggests, it rocks! As an added bonus, they merge this into a brief snippet midway through, of Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star,’ before coming back into ‘This Boy …’ again and without really taking a breather it’s ‘Sing Me Away.’ Excellent start song wise.

The only track from the last release, ‘Hole in the Sun’ is up next in the form of ‘You’re Gonna Hear It From Me’ which keeps the pace up, from the highly underrated album. Check it out if you haven’t already and give it a chance.
The truly anthemic Night Ranger track, ‘Rumors In The Air’ is next and it’s class and both Brad Gillis and newer dual lead player, Joel Hoekstra play off each other so well, great to watch.

(Joel Hoekstra, Brad Gillis and Jack Blades live in Waterford, MI 17th July, 2010. Photo: Alun Williams)

Even with the few early sound problems, it's very clear the band are all having a great time and Jack Blades then tells us about a little band he put together with Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent called Damn Yankees as they crank out ‘Coming of Age’ which pleases even more of the crowd. Then someone in the crowd yells out, ‘Where’s Ted?’ Jack replies, ‘Where’s Ted? He’s up a tree stand somewhere! Where do you think he is?!’ The crowd loves it!

Next up Jack tells us about how the band seem to have been asked to provide various soundtrack songs over the years and tells of when Michael J.Fox called up the band and asked them to provide a song for his latest movie, they duly obliged! With Jack asking Brad to help him come up with a song title, ‘The Secret of My Success,’ seemed to work quite well! Cue song, which sounded great.

We then get a really fun part of the night, when Jack continues to interact with the crowd asking, 'So, who tonight is at their first ever gig then?’ As the hands go up Jack points to a guy and says, ‘So how old are you? 41? Wow! You need to get out more man!’ Huge roar from the crowd and Jack says, ‘I’m just kidding! What about that lad behind you? How old are you? 12?! Wow! How cool!’ then Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra proceed to pass guitar picks to the crowd to be handed back to the lad.
Jack then asks Kelly Keagy, 'Hey Kelly, what was your first ever show you went to?’

Kelly replies, The Doors at Hollywood Bowl in ’68.’ They then start jamming ‘Roadhouse Blues’ for a verse and chorus or two, with Kelly taking the lead vocals. Very cool.

He then turns to Brad and asks the same, he responds ‘Led Zeppelin’ and jams a few bars of ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ then it’s Joel’s turn and he says Iron Maiden and plays the opening of ‘The Trooper,’ with the other briefly joining in.
As Jack turns to Christian Cullen, you could tell Jack was apprehensive since Christian is the youngest band member and Jack says, ‘So what about you then Christian and please don’t tell me it was Flock of Seagulls?!’
Christian responds by saying, ‘Nope, try this …’ As he starts playing Van Halen’s ‘Jump!’

Brad says, ‘So what about you then Jack?’ Jack says, ‘Well, for me it was weird, it was The Monkees with Jimi Hendrix and The Monkees fans didn’t know what to make of Jimi at all?! Little did they know, huh?!”
Then out of the blue, they start playing AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’ and played the whole song, with Jack handling lead vocals and the band pulling off a great version. What a great, fun night!

After this Jack says, ‘Well, we’d better play a Night Ranger song next, or everyone is going to think we’ve become a covers band!’ Huge roar from the crowd and then Jack tells us that they wrote this next song about this smooth, cool dude that used to come and check them out, when they first started playing out. Time for 'Eddie’s Coming Out Tonight,’ then they keep things on moving by going straight into ‘Four In The Morning.’ Excellent!

(Christian Cullen, Joel Hoekstra, Jack Blades, Brad Gillis, Kelly Keagy, Waterford, MI. Photo: Alun Williams)

You know time is running out for us tonight, as they start playing ‘When You Close Your Eyes,’ which of course was a huge smash and they wrap up the set with ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.’
Clearly the band has won these fans over tonight, due to the great reaction.

But we’re not quite done, as the applause and cheers from the crowd bring the band back out for two more, firstly with Kelly Keagy taking front stage and praising the crowd before starting ‘Sister Christian’ and slowly making his way to his kit, as the song builds up and the whole crowd is singing along. Nice!

How do they top that? Well, you know what, ‘You Can Still Rock In America’ really makes it’s point.

The crowd goes home happy and for the few problems the band encountered early on, they should know that once again, on their summer visit to Michigan, they’ve won some more fans and kept the old ones very happy.
Come back again soon guys, great fun show!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Yes, I got my mugshot with the band, just before the show. :)
Thanks to Larry Garcia for the pic.


  1. Saw these guys Saturday night in Smithfield NC!! They rocked!! Love you Joel!!

  2. Indeed, a great live act, very underrated, then people finally see them and say, 'Wow! I see what you mean, they're great!' :)

    Hoping to catch them in a few months time, as well as hope to interview one of them soon, but no guarantees right now ...


    Al :)