Rant ‘N’ Roll: Paul Rodgers Ages Gracefully

Still every inch the rock star, 63-year-old Paul Rodgers of Free (“All Right Now”) and Bad Company fame led Bad Co. into the Sands Entertainment Center Hotel Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for an hour+ set that included all the hits and sent the seemingly sold-out crowd into a tizzy. Seeing hundreds of old white people dancing is not a pretty sight. The band was tight, the sound was right and Paul Rodgers, alternating between guitar, piano and microphone-swinging frontman duties, looked and sounded great. Still one of Great Britain’s premier rock vocalists (we’ll forgive him for The Firm, The Law and his awful stint in Queen), Rodgers played it up for the housewives who went wild for him.

Original Lead guitarist Mick Ralphs might be one of the more underrated and overlooked of his ilk when the conversation turns to ‘70s British guitar heroes. Dude can wail. Original drummer Simon Kirke was right on time all night. I had extra interest in seeing Kirke. Our mutual friend, Ricky Byrd, whose current album, Lifer, is one of the best damn rock ‘n’ roll records of 2013, once took the both of us to Yankee Stadium. It was Kirke’s first baseball game and a night I’ll always remember. Anyway, Kirke, like Kenney Jones (Faces/Who) or Roger Earl (Foghat) is one of those consistent Brits who can bash and crash with the best of ‘em.

Highlight of the night had to be “Bad Company,” the song. Here’s where the band flexed its considerable muscle over and above cranking out the jukebox hits. It was the first track of a three-song encore that ended disappointingly (we wanted “All Right Now”). The encore came two-thirds of the way through the set, way too early. It set up an embarrassing moment: the band leaves the stage prematurely knowing they’re going to come back. (Why leave at all?) The people hoot and holler and clap and yell “MORE.” At the height of the hooting and a’hollering, though, they’re supposed to make their grand entrance, right? Well, guess what? The crowd got tired of asking for more. Usually, when that happens, the concert is over. On this night, the feeble shouters ended their request. A stony silence filled the hall. But nobody left. And nobody was yelling for more anymore. And they still weren’t back out. So everyone sat back down and waited. It was surrealistic. It was way too early for the show to be over. The silence—where there was not supposed to be silence—was as thick as pea soup. Eventually, the band sheepishly walked back on stage to tepid applause. Weird. Then we went through the whole thing again after two songs. The final track should have been a rousing danceable stomp that would have sent everyone scurrying to the craps tables ready to lose their supermarket budgets. Instead, the band chose a real snooze fest: “Seagull” from their 1973 self-titled debut. Nothing like the fabulous “Seagull” to end the night with! C’mon!

The setlist: 1) “Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy” 2) “Live For The Music” 3) “Run With The Pack” 4) “Feel Like Makin’ Love” 5) “Oh, Atlanta” 6) “Burnin’ Sky” 7) “Ready For Love” 8 ) “Honey Child” 9) “Movin’ On” 10) “Shooting Star” 11) “Can’t Get Enough” 12) encore number one “Bad Company” 13) encore number two “Rock Steady” and 14) encore number three “Seagull.”

Sands’ sound is spectacular. Two huge video monitors way up high gives every seat a first-row look at the action. Upcoming shows: The Wanted (8/24), Hanson (9/2), Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington (9/4), Blink-182 (9/12), “Queen Extravaganza” (9/13), Sarah Brightman (9/22), Steely Dan (9/27), Celtic Thunder (10/9), Diana Krall (10/10), A Day To Remember (10/12), Bobby Vinton (10/19), Frankie Valli (11/9), Paramore (11/11), “America’s Got Talent: Live” (11/13).