Live Review – Night Ranger – Meriweather Post Pavillion – July 12th (supporting the Scorpions)

Rarely do I find it worth dedicating an entire review to the support act, but when Night Ranger hit the stage at Merriweather last Thursday night it was clear these guys had come to deliver 100% or perhaps more. The Scorpions were headlining and that review will follow shortly, but this was the last night of the tour and for some reason Night Ranger were substituted for Tesla who had handled support up until this one date. So in many ways Night Ranger were dropped in the deep end – I still haven’t figured out why Tesla weren’t able to play this final night, which, as a Tesla fan, was a bit of a disappointment, especially as the original advertising for the show listed them as support for this date.

Anyway, whatever the reason, we got Night Ranger. To be fair, I was pretty much OK with the switch since I had previously seen NR a short 8 weeks back at the M3 Festival in May (another long overdue review, trust me it’s coming!). At M3 NR was one of the surprises, turning in a heavy, guitar-fueled slice of metal, easily putting them in the top 3 acts of the festival for me. So, what would they make of this opportunity?

Basically they hit the stage hard and simply powered their way through their set with such obvious enjoyment and sheer energy that it would be hard not to get sucked in. The first thing I will note was the sound quality was top notch, which is not something I always find true at these larger ‘stadium-style’ venues. Sometimes it is pretty clear the main act has restricted the support band to some subset of the capability of the sound rig, but as far as I can tell, Night Ranger got access to everything on offer and sounded loud and heavy.

As with most bands that have been around since the very late 70’s (NR formed in ’79) the band’s line-up history is better researched on the web (hello Wikipedia!), but the current version of NR includes the original three founding members: Brad Gillis (guitar), Jack Blades (bass and lead vocals) and Kelly Keagy (drums and lead volcals). They are joined by Joel Hoekstra on guitar, who is an admirable replacement for Jeff Watson from the classic 80’s line-up, bringing 8-finger tapping to the fret-board (which he makes look annoyingly easy…) and on their most recent recruit, Eric Levy on keyboards, who joined in 2011.

The show opened with “Lay It On Me” from the latest Night Ranger album, “Somewhere In California” (an excellent CD, go buy it), followed by “Sing Me Away” from “Dawn Patrol”, the very first NR record, and both were as fresh and busting out with energy as you could ask for. That in itself is a great testament to the band – two songs separated by 29 years, equally popping you between the eyes. Next up we were treated to a “Touch Of Madness” from the excellent “Midnight Madness” CD from 1983, again coming over as heavy, but laced with that undeniable catchy melodic edge that is a Night Ranger trademark.

Then things got really interesting with Jack Blades asking the crowd if they remembered that Brad Gillis had stood in for Randy Roads after his death in a light aircraft crash…? Sure we remember, but… then Jack asks Brad if he remembers any of the guitar licks and before you know it we’re being treated to a version of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”. This was a very cool moment and it sounded amazing. One song later we were treated to a smokin’ version of “High Enough” from the Damn Yankees back-catalog, which was equally welcome.

Of course any Night Ranger show wouldn’t be complete without their smash hit “Sister Christian” and we were not to be disappointed. It seems this song cannot avoid being turned into a massive audience sing-along and I’m not sure that is necessarily a good thing, but I guess there would be too many disgruntled ballad-lovers to leave it out. Personally it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest as the song reeks of 80’s bubble gum-rock just a little too much, but I’ll take it just so long as they crank out tracks like “You Can Still Rock In America” which closed the show. This is always a guitar master class and sounded as heavy as it ever did.

So, we got eleven songs, which was a good length set; just enough to get everyone jumping, but not too many to drag out the arrival of the Scorpions. For me Night Ranger have cemented their position as one of those must-see bands from the 80’s that you just can’t miss. They are cranking out new music (go buy “Somewhere In California”) that updates exactly what they were good at doing in their heyday and live they are really delivering the goods. My score: 8/10

 

Joel Hoekstra (left) and Brad Gillis (right) enjoying some guitar action (photo credit: Fred Bauer)

 

 

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2 Responses to “Live Review – Night Ranger – Meriweather Post Pavillion – July 12th (supporting the Scorpions)”

  1. We’ve been very lucky with the guys tearing London apart these last two years. Two stunning shows.

    Paul

  2. I suppose. Not thinking much of them for some reason lately.

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