WARNING: if you are under 40 this review may make no sense at all, unless you liked your parents’ record collection.
Tonight I succumbed to the temptation of a a huge dose of nostalgia. I saw Bad Company at the O2 Arena – the Dome. Meanwhile, later in the night, Steve van Zandt with his Soul Disciples, was playing the second venue, the Indigo. Bruce’s comrade and guitarist. I thought about going to both, but I just had this nagging feeling that Stevie’s show would be a routine soul revue, Southside Johnny lite, and I didn’t want to spoil the myth. And I had a cold, so needed to pace myself a bit. Got to respect your age, y’know. Sometimes…
My friends Dave, Fiona and Tony were doing Southside, sorry Stevie, so we met up beforehand for a quality steak at Gaucho and some fine Argentinian wines. Beats two pints of lager and a packet of crisps!
And then we went our separate ways. I’m wrote this on my tube journey home, but I’ll wager at least one of them had a snooze in their seats during Little Stevie!
So why was I going to see a blues rock band from the early-mid 70s who are best known for a tune, “Can’t get Enough”, which is one of Homer Simpson’s favourites? Well, because, at the age of 15, as I pulled away from glam and into rock, Bad Co were my favourite band. By a mile. I loved the strutting rockers and loved the ballads, the love songs, even more. It was maybe the first time I realised that the sad songs were the best. And singer, Paul Rodgers, in Free before Bad Co, had the most achingly soulful voice. More soulful than all those formula soul singers with their matching suits on Top of the Pops.
I never saw them live at the time, so this was truly a journey back to my youth. And it’s fair to say that most of the near sell-out crowd at the O2 probably felt the same.
And the band, Paul reunited with guitarist Mick Ralphs, Mott the Hoople before Bad Co, did not disappoint. Paul, dapper and in good shape, was still in very fine voice. His range seemed as good as ever. The sound was excellent and the riffs tight and punching. Mick was rather portly in his black Hawaiian shirt, but his guitar was as cutting as ever.
They opened with “Live for the Music”, a statement of intent, if not one of the true classics, played a couple of obscurities (which were still good) but mostly played what we were there for. The pile driving “Feel like Makin’ Love”, three songs in, set the scene. We had a beautiful version of “Ready for Love”, an anthemic “Shooting Star”, with the crowd (me included!) singing the whole of the last verse, a rocking “Moving On”, a dramatic “Burning Sky”, and, of course, second last, the rumbling “Can’t get Enough”. Not sure why it wasn’t last – maybe the band felt it was too much of a caricature.
There were two short encores: first the rebel soul of “Bad Company”, with Paul at the keyboards, and then a lovely acoustic version of “Seagull”. The first album was well-represented, as it should be. Nothing else they did was as good. And I know, when I write out the titles of these songs, they are a bit clunky, very, very seventies. They grew out of the British blues rock explosion, specifically from Free. And they influenced the boogie of so many US rock bands, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, who followed. That boogie was very evident tonight, in crystal clear sound.
Paul on piano for “Bad Company”.
And kicking off “Seagull.
So yes, this was up there with the best concerts I’ve seen this year, with Radiohead, Chvrches, Amber Arcades, Thee Oh Sees and all the rest. For different reasons, rooted in memories and not so much the here and now. But rooted in the same story.
The joy of music, whatever age you are.