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Bad Company - FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, Northerly Island, Chicago, 23/6/2016

  by Lisa Torem

published: 23 / 8 / 2016

Bad Company - FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, Northerly Island, Chicago, 23/6/2016


Lisa Torem enjoys a riveting set of rock ballads and blues classics from 70's band Bad Company at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island in Chicago.

Chicagoans had faced storm warnings earlier in the week, but those that ventured outside with a light wrap for the FirstMerit Band Pavilion at Northerly Island on Thursday, June 23, enjoyed a glowing sunset at the long-awaited 'ONE HELL OF A NIGHT TOUR' featuring Joe Walsh and Bad Company. First, The Joe Walsh band ran through a host of hits from the frontman’s days in the Eagles, the James Gang and his solo career. Walsh was in good humour and in great voice. Parsing out some wicked wiffery, he placed each song in cultural perspective. Bad Company, formed in 1973, included former Free members, drummer Simon Kirke and, of course, British frontman, singer/songwriter Paul Rodgers. Regular guitarist Mick Ralphs, announced that he would be taking a hiatus from the current tour, but had given his blessings to the Black Crowes’ Rich Robinson. Howard Leese of Heart fame stood proudly behind his Union Jack inspired axe. Denim clad Todd Ronning would diligently keep the rhythm section on high gear with his precision bass. Bad Company manned the stage with supreme confidence, only too happy to accept the warm audience reaction. And this audience came ready to rock. Even a broken leg didn’t stop one determined young suburban woman from dancing to the rhythmic beats of ‘Live for the Music’. Rodgers, decked out in shades, a sparkly retro vest, bright shirt and medallion, pounded on a tambourine as he monitored the audience reaction; his every move reflecting the contagious pulse. Leese zeroed in on his first fine melodic solo of the set. Although his unruly silver hair blew chaotically across his shoulders, he maintained a look of intense concentration. Against Kirke’s rhythmic torrent, Rodgers expressed the angst, regret and soulful resolution his original tune, ‘Gone, Gone Gone’ demanded. “My baby just walked out the door/She said the time forever/It ain’t the first time baby.” The agonizing words still ring true to anyone who has faced rejection, but although it ain’t the first time Rodgers has sung this blues-based song, his rendition showed no sign of world weariness. The outro featured Kirke’s drum fills and explosive guitar work. Rodgers circled back frequently with his audience. “Everybody good? You’re looking great,” he commented before breaking into ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’. The hit prompted a flurry of activity. One excited fan mouthed the lyrics into his craft beer, raising his can into the air, as if it were a Sennheiser. A couple snuggled against the black velvet sky as a swarm of blue lights engulfed the stage. Rodgers rolled out his blues harp for a brief, but tasty solo and then urged the crowd to sing along. “You look good,” he exclaimed, flashing a grin. The mood shifted when he manned the piano for ‘Electrical Air’, an intense, mysterious ballad over which Robinson and Leese performed daring, duelling guitar. Rodgers added his own vocal riffing with escalation emotion. Kirke played a killer solo. Then excitement pulsed through the stadium when Bad Company performed the jagged intro for ‘Ready for Love’. Rodgers maintained total control of the mic, even as he held it high in the air and as he gradually increased the dynamics. One young woman leaned over to whisper this reaction. She was watching Paul Rodgers for the very first time. “He’s my dad’s age, but he’s sooo good.” Rodgers was now wailing, “Every man needs a woman…”, generating another soul-satisfying concoction which benefitted from Robinson’s shimmering slide solo. The visuals grew ominous for ‘Burning Sky’. A crack of lighting merged with deeply shaded orange/red storm clouds as Rodgers sang the a cappella first verse. “I believe my soul’s on fire.” A couple slow danced under the now pitch black Chicago sky. Then Rodgers headed back to the piano and performed ‘Running with the Pack’ ('Run with the Pack', 1976, Swan Song Records). He poured his personality into the numerous fills as psychedelic shapes busted upon the mammoth screens. After Kirke’s kinetic fills, Rodger’s signature rambling man song gave way to ‘Shooting Star’ as a synchronized series of rotating candles lit up the overheads. The audience geared up for the call and response before Leese soloed. His enviable level of concentration, consistently clear tone and cool persona should set the gold standard for rock artists everywhere. It was also remarkable to witness how Robinson and Leese pooled their given talents together so successfully on such short notice for this much-anticipated, ambitious tour. Like clockwork, Rodgers pranced downstage to rile up his already excitable group. In less time than it takes to blink back tears, Bad Company launched into ‘Can’t Get Enough’. Robinson and Leese faced off for their final shredding showdown. ‘Rock and Roll Fantasy’ came alive after Ronning’s blistering bass solo and tons of collective energy ensued. With a strict 11 p.m. curfew, Bad Company had to curtail multiple encores, something that their lucky Milwaukee fans received, but, as concert goers left, they were treated to the band’s self-titled signature song.

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Bad Company - FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, Northerly Island, Chicago, 23/6/2016

Bad Company - FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, Northerly Island, Chicago, 23/6/2016

Bad Company - FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, Northerly Island, Chicago, 23/6/2016

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