When I talked to Paul Rodgers last fall prior to his two shows in the city with Bad Company, he left no doubt the passion for playing the blues and rock he's crafted for decades hasn't dwindled a bit.
Even with the fame and many radio hits with Free, Bad Company, The Firm and his solo career, Rodgers has kept pretty humble and not let it get in the way of making music and also putting on a great show.
Over the past couple of years I've seen Rodgers in several different formats and locations – solo at a county fair, paired with Queen at the Bradley Center and with Bad Company in the intimate confines of the Northern Lights Theater. Still, when I heard he was playing Summerfest I knew I
couldn't pass up on one of my favorites.
Fortunately, Paul Rodgers and band didn't disappoint, rattling off hit after hit with a vigorous energy. Much of the set drew from Rodgers' time with Bad Company, with rock anthems like "Can't Get Enough" and "Rock 'N Roll Fantasy" getting the decent sized (but pretty dedicated) crowd excited and having a good time. While I've heard these songs countless times, they sound great every time and on stage Rodgers is a great entertainer.
While his solo band might not be the real deal (i.e. Bad Company or Free), they did a pretty good job of interpreting the songs and breathing life that got the crowd excited on a warm summer night.
Guitarist Howard Leese, who I saw several years back with Rodgers, showed off his sublime talent, switching between mandolin and electric during Bad Company's "Feel Like Makin' Love." Rodgers certainly certainly was enjoying their company, nodding approvingly and smiling at his bandmates.
Rodgers soulful blues rock voice was as crisp and as great as ever. He walked from stage right to stage left and in between, sometimes with tambourine or microphone stand, fueling the energy of the crowd.
It was great to hear several songs by Free, which I feel is often forgotten too much in classic rock talk. I really like that raw blues rock of Free that saw Rodgers forming into the singer we know today. Of course with Bad Company he ventured into a more straight-up rock and roll route which I like just as much.
During the set, Rodgers shifted to piano for "Running with the Pack" and "Bad Company," the latter especially using it to great atmospheric effect. I also thought during the latter of the Wild West inspiration Rodgers had described to me.
When I saw Rodgers with Bad Company in the fall, their song "Seagull" was definitely one of my favorite moments that night.
Wednesday night, Rodgers stood solo with acoustic guitar and created a moving version of the song, his voice soaring from the speakers. Leese joined in mid-way, followed by the rest of the band. It's certainly an inspirational tune, as with many Rodgers tunes such as "Wishing Well" and "Shooting Star."
"It's a rock and roll night, Milwaukee," Rodgers told the crowd part way through the set and as cliché as that might sound it definitely ran true for the crowd.
While Rodgers kept the crowd happy with the hits (not that it's a bad thing) he did pull out a new song presumably called "Mr. Midnight," a bit of bluesy rocker with some great guitar riffs. He also played a song called "Closer," a song he wrote with Jimmy Page in The Firm.
During the band's encore, Rodgers and the band stormed through "All Right Now" with a lot of energy, culminating into Rodgers leading the crowd into a big sing a long of the chorus. Rodgers shook tambourine and twirled the microphone stand and clearly was having a blast. For an hour and a half, things were more than quite all right.
- Can't Get Enough
- Rock 'N Roll Fantasy
- Honey Child
- Wishing Well
- Ready for Love
- Running with the Pack
- Bad Company
- Feel Like Making Love
- Mr. Midnight (new song)
- Shooting Star
- Movin' On
- Walk in My Shadow (Encore)
- All Right Now (Encore)
- Rock Steady (Encore)
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