It was evening about love.
Feel Like Makin’ Love, Can’t Get Enough (of your love), Ready For Love, oh and the infatuation the crowd at the South Okanagan Events Centre had for Paul Rodgers and Bad Company.
At 63 years old Rodgers still looks, sounds and commands the stage like a rock star. Ranked No. 55 on the Rolling Stone magazine list of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, those at the SOEC got treated to Rodgers and Bad Company’s best on Saturday night.
After opener Murray Atkinson warmed up the crowd, the song Rodgers shot to fame with as frontman with the band Free (All Right Now) pumped through the loudspeakers in the minutes leading up to the main event. Rodgers and band burst in front of the crowd with a sudden blast from smoke cannons to Rock N Roll Fantasy and the next 75 minutes to follow were just as dreamy.
Rodgers, dressed in tight black pants, a t-shirt and vest, twirled his silver mic stand and spent little time conversing with the crowd. Bad Company got straight into their catalogue of hits rolling into Feel Like Makin’ Love, which saw Rodgers wail on the harmonica. His aggressive vocal chops and sex appeal as a rock star have not fallen to the side after 40 years in the business. Women in the front row swooned, pointing up at him singing the chorus of the hit song right back to him.
The guy is a legend after all, and set the standard of a rock and roll vocalist for all who came after him — a sensitive and controlled voice with an explosive masculine growl when called for. Not only the lead for Bad Company (1973-1982, 1998 to 2002 and 2008 to present), he formed super group The Firm (with legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page), is accomplished solo artist and was lead vocals for Queen (2005-2009).
The frontman, who now calls Summerland his home with his wife Cynthia Kereluk a former Miss Canada, model and exercise physiologist, had a subtle set up on stage. The drummer, Simon Kirke, pounded away behind him with guitarist and Bad Company co-founder Howard Leese and bassist Todd Ronning (filling in for departed Boz Burrell) rocked out on either side of Rodgers. A giant Bad Co logo, white on black, draped behind them with smaller versions flanking either side of the stage.
Just as his band flexed their muscles on solos, so did Rodgers, who stood with rock star attitude at the piano several times during the show.
The half-arena set up gave Bad Company the intimate feel that Rodgers previously publicly said he enjoyed, having become disenchanted with playing giant stadiums after his first leave from the band. Perhaps it helps with making the arena a little more electric with crowd energy, which was displayed during Shooting Star and prompted an audience sing-a-long. While it was mostly an older crowd, they were there to rock. Audience members held up signs and one person had a pink inflatable flamingo that got chucked onto the stage at the end of the show which Kirke picked up and took with him. Rodgers stopped to point and acknowledge a group of four who held up metallic shiny posterboard spelling out P-A-U-L.
“That’s beautiful. Thank-you,” he said.
Bad Company showed their appreciation thanking the audience whose ear piercing cheers brought them back out for a triple encore including the songs Bad Company, Rock Steady and Seagull.
There was a low point of the evening, however, and It is sad really. Listening to rock anthems that have stood the test of time over 40 years later and then hopping in my car to hear the “hits” on the radio today. Songs that will never be remembered like those of Bad Company’s, who decades later still bring people to their feet. I realized just how lucky I was to hear the treasure that is Paul Rodgers, I hope everyone else did too.