by Matt Wardlaw
When you’ve been around for more than 40 years, you’re not supposed to sound as good as Bad Company sounded last night at Blossom Music Center. But when you’ve got Paul Rodgers as your vocalist, the deck is definitely going to be stacked in your favor.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of their debut and six out of the eight tracks from that album were in the band’s set on Tuesday evening, but that’s hardly unusual. Most of those songs can usually be found on the setlist on any night that Bad Company plays a show. We’re talkin’ tracks like “Bad Company,” “Ready For Love” and “Can’t Get Enough.” But there’s still more, like “Rock Steady,” “Movin’ On” and “Seagull,” a track which found Rodgers center stage with drummer Simon Kirke and guitarist Mick Ralphs, all three of them playing acoustics, with Ralphs looking at Kirke, quipping “Give the drummer some.”
If Bad Company would have called it quits after that first album, it would have had a pretty good legacy right there. But as we know, they kept going and during their set, they shared a good cross-section of their career highlights, with a nice surprise coming off of their 1979 Desolation Angels album, which ended up being a different kind of “Rock N’ Roll Fantasy” (no worries — they played that too, as the set opener), delivered in the form of the deeper cut, “Gone, Gone, Gone.”
“Live For The Music,” from 1976’s Run With the Pack which has been the standard opener on this tour, popped up instead midway through the set and it was a smart move — by that point, the crowd seemed to be sufficiently riled up and Bad Co. delivered a booming version that really got people moving.
“Silver, Blue and Gold” was an unfortunate omission from the setlist — Kirke has said in interviews that there are reasons that the band doesn’t play it anymore. Whatever those reasons might be, it’s a shame, because it’s one of their finest tracks. But by the time the band hit the encore portion of the night, with Paul Rodgers sitting behind the piano, playing the opening notes of “Bad Company,” it was awfully hard to complain about much of anything.
Co-headliner Lynyrd Skynyrd’s set, which closed out the night of music was a mixed bag. Vocalist Johnny Van Zant, younger brother of late Skynyrd vocalist Ronnie, continues to carry the torch vocally for the group, which includes guitarist Gary Rossington as the band’s lone remaining original member (although the group includes a number of members who have been with the band for many years, including former Blackfoot guitarist Rickey Medlocke, himself an early member of Skynyrd in the ‘70s who rejoined the group in the mid-’90s).
There’s no question that the band presents a show that feels very much authentically like a Lynyrd Skynyrd show, but unless you’re a card carrying member of the “Skynyrd Nation,” it can be a bit of a three ring circus at times, with rock and roll cliches sailing through the air a mile a minute with Van Zant winding up the crowd with lines like “It’s good to see the rock and roll is still alive out here” and plenty of questions like “How many Lynyrd Skynyrd fans do we have here tonight?”
There was also what felt like an inappropriate abundance of exuberance both onstage and in the crowd during “That Smell” that was a good example of several moments in the set where it felt like the understanding of the meaning of the original songs had been lost in translation somewhere along the way. Later in the set, the attempted modernization of “Tuesday’s Gone” with the addition of cinematic synth lines felt a bit out of place in comparison to the original recorded version.
While the band certainly delivered on paper a setlist that was a crowd pleaser filled with the necessary hits (and even a bit of an unexpected side trip with “Mississippi Kid,” from their 1973 debut), their overall performance felt a bit flat when compared to the energy and enthusiasm that Bad Company had put forth during their set earlier in the evening. And while it was a performance that seemed to hit the mark with the Skynyrd faithful, some additional surprises in the setlist in addition to the previously mentioned “Mississippi Kid” would have been welcome.
There was no material in the set from the band’s 2012 Last Of A Dyin’ Breed album and although that’s not a huge surprise, one wouldn’t have known that the band continues to record and make new music from last night’s setlist and that’s a shame, because their most recent album was actually a really good one. But if you were in the audience last night and yelled out “Free Bird,” you were at least finally in the right place to get your wish.