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Concert Reviews:

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, July 2, 2009

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- The DTE Energy Music Theatre turned into a time capsule on Wednesday night (July 1) -- albeit a soggy one -- with the dial set back to sometime in the early to mid-'70s.

That's when Wednesday's two acts, Bad Company and the Doobie Brothers, were among the most dominant bands on rock radio and each were probably good for multi-night stands at the amphitheater. This time, despite Bad Company's three surviving members touring together for the first time in a decade, they only filled about half the place (unseasonable cold and rainstorms did not encourage much walk-up), but those who braved the elements were treated to the rare sight and sound of two veteran groups who are not only still in good shape but are arguably even better than they were in their commercial heyday, recalling a time when special effects meant smoke and mirror balls (both of which Bad Company employed) and the dancers were in the crowd rather than on stage.

Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers, of course, possesses a voice that's been defying the aging process throughout his career, which also includes tenures with Free, the Firm, the Law and Queen as well as an active solo endeavor. It was the star of Bad Company's 85-minute set, in fact, as he belted and crooned his way through all 14 songs with hearty, R&B-styled improvisations -- and even a bit of Tom Jones-style exposition during the opening number, "Can't Get Enough."

But that should not at all diminish his cohorts, guitarist Mick Ralphs and drummer Simon Kirke (original bassist Boz Burrell passed away in 2006), who were also in fine form -- Kirke rock steady in the pocket, Ralphs still a tasteful, understated soloist both on his own and twinning with former Heart member Howard Leese, a utility player who brought a bit more muscle and texture to Bad Company's Spartan sound on Wednesday. The group gave the crowd solid renditions of most everything it would want to hear -- including "Rock Steady," "Run With the Pack," "Burnin' Sky," "Feel Like Makin' Love" and "Movin' On" -- while also digging into the catalog for album tracks such as "Electricland" and "Simple Man."

Rodgers and Ralphs played acoustic guitars for a moving rendition of "Seagull" from Bad Company's 1974 debut album, while "Shooting Star," while the Doobie Brothers' Patrick Simmons, Tom Johnston and John McFee helped form a guitar army during "Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy." And two other first-album favorites, "Ready For Love" and "Bad Company," comprised a sublime encore that certainly inspires hope for more reunions in the future.

The Doobies, meanwhile, trotted out one new song -- "Back to the Chateau," a riffy, rootsy rocker from a new album due out in 2010 -- during its 75-minute opening set, a small nod that the "Listen to the Music" gang still intends to give us some fresh music to listen to. But the old stuff remains one of rock's richest catalogs, and the octet had fans on the lawn dancing under their umbrellas as it rolled through "Jesus is Just Alright," "Rockin' Down the Highway," "Takin' it to the Streets," "Black Water," "Long Train Runnin' " and "China Grove," as well as covers of the Eddie Holland/Kim Weston Motown hit "Take Me in Your Amrs (Rock Me)" and Bobby Day's "Little Bitty Pretty One."

Combined with Bad Company's set the night was a welcome trip down memory lane by two bands who sound no worse -- and possibly even better -- for the wear.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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