Oklahoma City, OK
July 16, 2016
By Jeb Wright
Touch of Madness | Four in the Morning | Sing Me Away | Coming of Age | The Secret of My Success | Snippet of Sweet Child o' Mine | School's Out | Snippet of Renegade | Crazy Train | High Road | Sentimental Street | Eddie's Comin' Out Tonight | High Enough | Goodbye | When You Close Your Eyes | Don't Tell Me You Love Me / Highway Star | Sister Christian | (You Can Still) Rock in America
Night Ranger rolled into Oklahoma City and blasted out a huge set of their biggest hits – as well as a few of some other bands biggest hits – to the crowd at the Frontier City amusement park.
There are bands that are so damn good live one doesn’t need video screens, a fancy light show or other bells and whistles. These types of bands simply show up, set up and crank out music for music’s sake. Night Ranger is one such band. On this night, despite corn-sweating humidity, the band were smiling, moving around, playing off each other and the crowd and having a damn good time from the first note to the last.
Night Ranger’s set is filled with classic ‘80s FM radio hits, but seeing that several of the band members have had success in other groups, Night Ranger decided to tip their hat to the past—both as a band, and as individuals. The band, in 2016 consists of the original trio of Jack Blades on lead vocals and bass guitar, Brad Gillis on guitar and background vocals and Kelly Keagy on drums and lead and background vocals. Joining the original members are keyboardist Eric Levy and guitarist Keri Kelly.
Night Ranger opened the show with one song from each of their first three albums…”Touch of Madness” from 1983’s Midnight Madness, followed by “Four in the Morning” from 1985’s 7 Wishes and “Sing Me Away” from 1982’s Dawn Patrol… not a bad way to start a gig. The crowd was having a blast singing along with “Sing Me Away,” and at the end of the tune, Jack Blades reminded the crowd he had been in a band called Damn Yankees. With that, Gillis did his best Damn Yankee / Ted Nugent impression and opened the tune “Coming of Age.” Next up was “Secret of My Success” the title track from the 1987 film as well as the standout hit tune from Night Ranger’s Big Life album.
Next, the band took some time out to have a bit of fun. Blades introduced Kerri Kelly to the crowd, stating that Kerri had spent some time in Slash’s Snakepit. With that, Kelly played the intro to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” as the band kicked in for about a minute. Blades then let the crowd know Kelly also played with Alice Cooper for several years. With that, the band kicked into the Cooper classic “Schools Out “ and performed a stellar version. Blades sounded so much like Cooper I was waiting for him to hang himself! The fun was, however, not over.
Blades told us all that he had been on the phone with REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin earlier that day and that Kevin was surprised Night Ranger was in Oklahoma City without his band, as the two groups have played the city together many times. With that, Blades and Company sang the opening to the Styx classic “Renegade,” another group that was on tour with both NR and REO just a few short years ago. The fun, however, was still not over, as Blades reminded us all that Brad Gillis had once toured as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist after Randy Rhoads was killed in an airplane accident. Gillis stepped to center stage, ripped off a huge molten metal guitar solo that ended with the main riff of the Ozzy classic “Crazy Train.” The band jumped in and Night Ranger played the entire song as Gillis impressed everyone pulling off the famous solo with ease.
The band and crowd were, by now, hot, sweaty and having fun in the Oklahoma heat. Tribute time, for now, was over and the band cranked out their latest song, the title track from their latest album High Road. New songs do not always go over well, but this one did okay. Many in the crowd were hardcore fans and they even sang along. “Sentimental Street” was next and it was sung to perfection by Keagy. This is an emotional song, so at the end of the tune Night Ranger returned to their debut album Dawn Patrol and rocked out with “Eddie’s Coming Out Tonight” before slowing it down with the Damn Yankee hit “High Enough,” which was enjoyed, just like it always has been, by the ladies more than the men.
The song “Goodbye” followed and was a highlight of the evening. The reprise where the band comes in is an emotional moment and the energy on this night was perfect for such a song. “When You Close Your Eyes” made everyone happy again, while “Don’t’ Tell Me You Love Me” was performed next mixed in with, as Blades stated, “the kind of music we grew up with,” which, in this case was the Deep Purple classic “Highway Star.” Keagy once again blasted out a monster vocal on the band’s biggest pop-hit, and one of the biggest all-time hits of the ‘80s, “Sister Christian.” After all these years, the song still touches a chord… in that sense, this track has truly earned the moniker of being a ‘timeless song’.
The show ended on an upbeat, with the hardest rocking tune in the Night Ranger cannon, “(You Can Still) Rock in America.” Kerri Kelly and Brad Gillis slayed the solos, dropping the jaw of all the rock nerds in attendance.
Night Ranger is nearly finished with a new album of songs that Gillis described to me as “classic Night Ranger,” but tonight they kept those tracks under wraps. We will have to wait to hear the new stuff. That’s okay, though... What we got tonight was a band on fire (both from the love of playing their music, and the heat of the day) and a band dedicated to their craft.
With Night Ranger, you get it all. The ballads for the lovebirds, the fun choruses for those who like to dance and the monster guitar solos for the rockers in attendance. There really is something for everyone… sometimes all in the same song. It is refreshing to see a band that loves the music as much as their fans. It was apparent on this night that Night Ranger still digs what they do.
There are bands that are just damn good live… and Night Ranger is damn sure one of them.
If they come around your area, which they will, go see them.
Check out all tour dates at www.nightranger.com