This gig had been eagerly anticipated for months, not just by myself, but every person who had bought a ticket for Bad Company’s “Swan Song Tour”.
Support band for the night were RSO, or in other words Bon Jovi’s world renowned ex-guitarist Richie Sambora and his newest squeeze Orianthi. These guys have been linked together both musically and romantically for a few years now and are currently working on an album together, so that should be interesting.
I was fortunate (or maybe unfortunate?) to catch a performance by the duo at the Islington 02 Academy back in June 2014. On that occasion I was left more than a little disappointed by the performance; Richie was not in good form, in fact he appeared to slur his words and lose all sense of coordination.
Given that previous experience, I wasn’t expecting much from his set at the 02, so was pleasantly surprised that he seemed slightly better prepared this time round. I can’t say it was a mind blowing performance, but certainly more than adequate. His vocals were a million times better than at the Islington show, but again, he really didn’t seem to find that ‘je ne sais quoi’ so prevalent in his Bon Jovi days.
The couples opening number was a cover of U2’s “When Love Comes to Town”, a slightly odd choice I thought, but then the rest of their set list was a rather eclectic mix too. Song choice aside though, Richie tried to engage the half-filled arena with some cheesy banter, and to give him his dues, he really worked his butt off to please everyone. There’s never been any doubt about his superior stage presence, let’s face it, being at the forefront of one of the most prevalent rock bands of the last few decades, he had to have mastered his stage craft by now, but there was something lacking.
Orianthi does seem to have steered him in the right direction though, so good on her. She has proved a very competent guitarist in her own right, and looked every bit the stunning rock goddess on this occasion. There’s still a large amount needed to get them completely on track but hopefully the pair will keep touring and eventually gel better in future.
RSO out of the way it was on to the act that everyone was really there to see, Bad Company. The classic line-up was here, consisting of Paul Rodgers, Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke, complemented perfectly with the addition of Howard Leese (guitars) and Todd Ronning (bass).
Paul Rodgers, personifies the true English gentleman of rock, no gimmicks or frills, he just powers through his harmonious vocals in style, perfection itself! No way would you guess how many years he’s been around, and to be honest, who cares? Clearly age has no barriers when it comes to Rodgers looks or voice. Let’s face it, few other lead singers of that era can boast the range and clarity of the performances he still puts out. Not only that, he can also still twirl a mike stand like a 20 something!
Kirke too has aged gracefully, and here he put on a really powerful performance. His kit poised on a sparkling drum riser, he towered above his bandmates, a very fitting position. Ralphs on the other hand hasn’t been quite so blessed, but saying that, for someone in his early 70’s, he still braved his way through some apparent physical discomfort, and it definitely wouldn’t have been Bad Company without him. (Note: a few days after this concert some sad news filtered through that Mick Ralphs had suffered a stroke and was hospitalised. We all wish him a full and very speedy recovery.)
The bonus of positioning Rodgers piano right next to Kirke proved an inspirational move at the London gig, and added to the powerful and monumental sound. The rhythm section will always be an integral part in the classic sound of Bad Company and Free numbers, especially with such classics as “Feel like Making Love”, “Run with the Pack” and “Can’t Get Enough”, so the addition of Todd Ronning on bass was an excellent idea.
All in all there was absolutely nothing to criticize about the whole performance at the O2. The sound system was phenomenal and the band members gave their all, which was clear to see by everyone there. Even the set-list had been carefully thought out, mixing and matching powerful, unforgettable tracks with slightly toned down ones. This concert will live with me for many years to come, and I was gutted when it ended.
Being called the Swan Song Tour, it would have appeared this could be the final tour for the current line-up, but Rodgers did more than hint it was not the end. A lot depends of course on the health of Mick Ralphs, but here’s hoping for his full recovery and that there’ll be more performances like this one to come from the band, because I’ll be first in line for a ticket!
1, Live for the Music
2, Gone, Gone, Gone
3, Feel Like Makin’ Love
5, Burnin’ Sky
6, Run with the Pack
7, Ready for Love
8, Crazy Circles
10, Movin’ On
11, Shooting Star
12, Can’t Get Enough
13, Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy
14, Bad Company