Thursday, July 28, 2011

Paul Rodgers celebrates legacy with hits-heavy show at Pacific Amphitheatre

Pacific 2011: Paul Rodgers packs in the hits

Review and photo by Robert Kinsler; the review was originally posted on The Orange County Register Web site.

Time has been kind to Paul Rodgers. While many of his contemporaries have lost most (or all) of their voices, ultimately becoming parodies of their youthful rock-star selves, Rodgers’ talents and looks have hardly changed since I first caught him fronting the Firm in the mid-’80s. I went to that show specifically to catch Jimmy Page, who performed several solos while seated and played terribly – but I came away awed by Rodgers’ talents as a singer and frontman.

At Pacific Amphitheatre Wednesday night (July 27, 2011), the 61-year-old Brit, who fronted Free and Bad Company in the ’70s as well as a resurrected Queen this past decade, celebrated his long career with a heavy-on-hits 15-song set before an enthusiastic crowd.

Those on hand who love hard-hitting classic rock were in the right place to be sure. Hardly any Free or Bad Company staples were excluded, and the headliner and his solid four-man band rocked hard while never letting any individual song’s dynamics or groove slip away.

Rodgers, 61, has maintained a voice aptly suited to material that blends British blues and hard rock, and he proved that over and over again Wednesday. His ensemble leaped out of the gate with a charging “Can’t Get Enough,” immediately getting the crowd on their feet. The next selection, blues-rock gem “Honey Child,” may not have been as well-known, yet its forceful delivery, which kept the audience standing, matched the performance on the outstanding Bad Company: Live at Wembley set issued earlier this year.

There were shifts in mood and approach throughout the 90-minute concert. For “Seagull,” Rodgers started alone on acoustic guitar, then lead guitarist Howard Leese came out, also on acoustic, and added some nice lead lines for additional texture. Finally, the rest of the band emerged and the song continued to build to a vibrant finish.

His instrumental work while standing at the piano (“Bad Company”) or offering up a quick harmonica solo (“Feel Like Makin’ Love”) provided deeper layers to admittedly familiar material. He also had no trouble getting the audience to become an essential player in the proceedings, as the last verse and chorus in “Shooting Star” were sung completely a capella by Rodgers, bolstered by the crowd and his band mates.

Rodgers rewarded fans with a strong encore, offering up the Free classic “All Right Now” (Leese’s solo killed) and the seldom-heard “Walk in My Shadow,” a Free song (the first ever penned by Rodgers) that showcased the singer’s lifelong love affair with the rich junction where rock and blues meet.

Setlist: Paul Rodgers at Pacific Amphitheatre, July 27, 2011

Main set: Can’t Get Enough / Honey Child / Run with the Pack / Ready for Love / Mr. Big / Feel Like Makin’ Love / Bad Company / Seagull / Burnin’ Sky / Fire and Water / Shooting Star / Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy / Movin’ On
Encore: All Right Now / Walk in My Shadow

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