As British bands from the classic rock era go, Bad Company isn’t one that instantly rises to the top, compared with, say, Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd.
Along with a lot of other groups, Bad Company long has been snubbed by folks who think that they know everything, which is why there is a Facebook page entitled Why The Hell Is Bad Company Not In The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.
To be sure, the band’s performance Saturday illustrated why Bad Company might not be Hall-worthy. Half of the four members date to the band’s self-titled debut album. None of the musicians are virtuosos. And the band never had enough hits to fill the entire 75 minutes they played on Saturday.
Then again, Def Leppard is in the hall of fame, and so, why not Bad Company? After Saturday’s show, it is a worthy point.
The opening was not promising. “Can’t Get Enough” was plodding, shaky, tentative -- like a bar band hatched on Thursday that performed in public three days later, before musicians had gotten to know each other. Basic three-chord rock-and-roll never has been difficult, but it takes a certain swagger to execute well, and it didn’t happen out of the gate on Saturday. But it did develop.
Things were playing out nicely by the third number, “Feel Like Makin' Love.” The band looked and sounded more comfortable than at the beginning. A few issues remained: Vocal harmonies were overbearing, but that, likely wasn’t the band’s fault – you sing, someone else not on stage is supposed to ensure it’s at the proper volume so that everything sounds pretty together. Paul Rodgers’ harmonica playing was not particularly, or even close to, sophisticated. It got the point across but no more than that.
The band hit its stride with “Moving On,” the next number and, for the most part, never looked back. The show’s success, and it was a success, largely hinged on Rodgers, an original member who mostly sings but also played piano and guitar on a couple numbers. Bad Company is not much a visual act. Todd Ronning, bassist who joined in 2012, moved a bit, but lead guitarist Howard Leese, who’s been with the band since 2008, was, mostly, a statue. That left Rodgers to twirl his microphone stand and gesture with his hands while twisting his voice around familiar lyrics so that things sounded fresh. And he did a good job of keeping stuff interesting by toying with phrasing during songs everyone knew by heart.
By the show’s second half, Rodgers didn’t bother singing choruses to hits such as “Shooting Star” and “All Right Now.” The audience, happily and loudly, did his job for him. During “All Right Now,” there was a blatant nod to nostalgia with old concert and publicity photos of the band Free, which made the song a hit in 1970, projected onto screens set up on either side of the stage while Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke, who left Free to form Bad Company in 1973, belted it out along with the rest of the current band. It was a nice touch.
Less successful was some filler material, notably “All Along The Watchtower,” which sounded like neither Bob Dylan nor Jimi Hendrix, but, rather, Bad Company trying to sound like Hendrix and not making it. The version, predictable to the core, invited the audience to clap along, which thankfully no one did. It was a choice made more curious by the omission of some original material, notably “Run With The Pack.” On the other hand, “All Because Of You,” from Kirke’s 2017 solo album of the same name, was pure delight. Emerging from behind his drums, Kirke picked up an acoustic guitar and dedicated the song to his wife, beaming the whole while. It was an unexpected nugget every bit as much fun as anything played all night.
Foghat, the opener, played a 60-minute set that included all the expected hits while making one wonder, why didn’t more classic rock bands make more use of slide guitar? Wisely, drummer Roger Earl, the only original member, was buttressed by a percussionist stationed near the back of the stage who augmented a few numbers – you never can have enough cow bell going on at a Foghat show. Guitarist Bryan Bassett, observing his 20th year with the band, was, arguably, the best musician to take the stage on Saturday night. When he put the slide away, particularly on “Take Me To The River,” the snarl made even more perfect the perfect cover, when you think about it, for a band like Foghat.
SET LIST (Foghat)
1. Drivin’ Wheel
2. Stone Blue
3. Chateau Lafitte ’59 Boogie
4. Take Me To The River
5. Third Time Lucky
6. Fool For The City
7. I Just Want To Make Love To You
8. Slow Ride
2. Live For The Music
3. Feel Like Makin’ Love
4. Movin’ On
5. Young Blood
6. Gone, Gone Gone
7. All Because Of You
9. Ready For Love
10. All Along The Watchtower
11. Shooting Star
12. Bad Company
13. All Right Now
14. Rock and Roll Fantasy (encore)
Bruce Rushton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.