ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 20, 1993
The first time I saw Paul Rodgers perform live was back in the ’70s, when Bad Company played the Pacific Coliseum on the Running with the Pack tour. I didn’t see him again until last Friday (May 14), but lemme tell ya—the guy is still one of the finest crooners the blues-rock world has ever seen.
He still hasn’t learned how to play a really long set, though.
Sticking with the basic guitar/bass/drum line-up he’s favoured since the early days of Free, Rodgers devoted most of his set to tunes from his new Muddy Waters tribute album, Muddy Water Blues. With former Journeyman Neil Schon providing the hot guitar licks, the band worked through old standards like Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little School Girl” and Willie Dixon’s “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man”, but got the biggest rise from the crowd during Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and “Little Wing”. The latter tune was a particularly fine showcase for Rodgers’ soulful pipes, and the former afforded Schon a good opportunity to practise his excellent rock-star grimaces.
Although former Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward had been advertised on the bill, other musical commitments required that he be replaced at the last minute by Deen Castronovo, who—along with newly recruited bassist Todd Jensen—pulled the gig off admirably. After about an hour, Rodgers announced that he only had time for one more song, so the band tore into “The Hunter”.
At this point it became very difficult for yours truly to scribble legible notes, since the table I was seated at reached onto the Commodore’s sprung dance floor and the vibrations had my Bic rattling out some weird type of Braille. Nobody said rock journalism would be an easy ride.
When Rodgers encored with “All Right Now”, he proved once and for all that he’s the world’s best guy at going “Whoa-yeaah!”. The 1970 Free classic even got two rowdies so excited they had to fight about who liked it best.
After the band closed with another Hendrix gem, “Stone Free”, there was little to complain about other than the shortness of the set. Mind you, I had been spoiled silly after seeing Blues Traveler go at it for three hours at the Commodore the night before.