This should have been bad. Seventies act far beyond its years playing to a multitude that didn't care in a faraway land where no discerning eyes are present. But that wasn't the case, this show was FANTASTIC! INCREDIBLE! ASTOUNDING! THE BEST OF THE YEAR!
And how can that be?
"Some people say I'm no good
Laying in my bed all day
But when the nighttime comes I'm ready to rock And roll my troubles away"
In a world where how EARLY you wake up is a badge of honor, it's refreshing to be re-rooted to a world where all the good things happen at night, and it's not when you get up, but how long you STAY UP!
There's no place more bizarre than a county fair. In this case in far-off Pomona, a sea of people you see nowhere else, bad bodies, various ethnicities, only an hour from L.A. but in mind-set and visuals as far away as Iowa or Mississippi. You're forced to walk through a midway of vomit-inducing rides, vittles that might cause a heart attack and ultimately funneled to a grandstand that looks like it hasn't had a dime invested this century. And then the screens light up, introducing the band, yes, they brought their full production, and the guitars start to scream, the drums start to pound, Paul Rodgers twirls the mic stand and sings the above lyrics and…
I'M TINGLING AS I WRITE THIS! I IMMEDIATELY JUMPED TO MY FEET AND THRUST MY ARM IN THE AIR! It was like it was still the seventies and music was the most important medium in the world and fully worth living for. This was a show where you didn't pull out your cell phone unless it was to take a photo, you didn't want to take your eyes off the band, you felt when they left the stage you might not get another chance.
And it wasn't just me. The middle-aged women next to me were twisting and turning their bodies, singing every word at the top of their lungs. The Latino men in front of me were doing the same thing. The fat white guy to the right, he was getting more exercise than he probably got in a month. The assembled multitude was gyrating like rock music was the most important thing in the world, the elixir of life, they were taking it all in AND GIVING IT ALL BACK!
Come on, "Ready For Love" was a Mick Ralphs cut on a Mott The Hoople record that was redone more slowly for the initial Bad Company LP, an album track for sure. But when Paul Rodgers dropped the mic and stopped singing…everybody in attendance sang in unison that they were READY FOR LOVE, OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN! It was like an alternative universe, where not only rock ruled, but Bad Company were legends, the toppermost of the poppermost, rock royalty come back to get its just accolades. WHEW!
They get no love. The punksters and hipsters at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame pooh-pooh them, lauding fraudsters like Patti Smith and Joan Jett when it's groups like this that are the heart of rock and roll. And I've been to see Kiss, but the mania for Bad Company was bigger. And I love the guys in Rush, but this audience was half women, and they weren't dragged by their boyfriends, THEY NEEDED TO BE THERE!
It's almost like they don't exist. No one ever talks about Bad Company. But here they are, in plain sight, and they're LEGENDS!
And it wasn't only "Ready For Love." The audience took over for "Shooting Star" too.
"Johnny was a schoolboy
When he heard his first Beatles song"
So was I, so were you. We heard this sound and it changed our lives, it gave us something to live for. And Saturday night I felt like I was at the church, the synagogue of my life, re-centered, I'm a rocker, always was and forever will be.
And speaking of rock…
This is the show you want to see, not Guns N' Roses, they ran circles around Axl and Slash. You see there were TWO lead guitarists. Howard Leese of Heart and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes. And not only did they riff off each other, they played in unison… We went there to relive what once was and we didn't know they were gonna reinvent it and push the envelope into the future. Leese doesn't get enough respect, he WAILED! And after watching Robinson… Just because you're not the frontman, that doesn't mean you don't deserve credit, Chris Robinson gets all the accolades, but now I'm re-evaluating.
And speaking of re-evaluating…
Legend has it Paul Rodgers still has his voice, when almost no one from that era still does. And not only is that true, he played the guitar and the PIANO! He tickled the ivories and I was stunned, this was not some lame singer, this was a MUSICIAN! And except for a storm effect at the beginning of "Burnin' Sky," nothing was on hard drive, it was just real music, all the time, played on guitars, how it once was and seemingly forever more will no longer be. It was like being jetted back to the past where everything was different. Where how you looked paled in comparison to how you played. Where it was all about a big sound emanating from the speakers, one you created by practicing in your bedroom for eons, alone. IT WAS REVELATORY!
Sure, they played "Can't Get Enough," but they also played "Crazy Circles," it was just as hypnotic as it was on wax.
"Life is like a merry-go-round
Painted horses riding up and down
Music takes you and you're gone again"
What if I told you there was an era where we were glued to the radio, where we lived at the record store, where being into music wasn't only one thing, it was EVERYTHING! That's what it was like during the seventies, when you went to the show not to be seen, but to connect with the band, which wasn't featured in social media, which made it on the music alone, which went from town to town living a life of luxury and debauchery, with wine and drugs and sex and…it was everything we wanted, everywhere we wanted to be, musicians were the richest and most powerful people in America…AND WE LOVED IT!
Yes, it's all part of my rock 'n roll fantasy…AND THEY PLAYED THAT TOO! I knew every lick, every word…AND SO DID EVERYBODY ELSE! Was it all that airplay on classic rock radio, could it be that this band with no respect and no ink RULES?
Bad Company, and I can't deny. Paul sat at the piano and began the riff and the crowd swooned, they immediately recognized it. Simon Kirke pounded the drums like he was still looking for his ticket out of obscurity and the entire joint levitated, high on the sound.
We were rocking steady, which was the second encore. We couldn't believe it. We were at the heart of rock and roll, and it was still beating. The band was not punching the clock, they were feeding off our energy.
And I still haven't gotten over it.