Story and Photo by Scott Smith
Paul Rodgers’ home must stand adjacent to the Fountain of Youth.
The 62-year-old frontman for Bad Company and ex-Free singer looked and sounded downright youthful during his solo gig July 10 at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Catoosa, Okla. Rodgers’ vocal pipes haven’t aged at all since Bad Company’s (so far) final U.S. gig at the venue almost two years ago.
Dressed in a white T-shirt, black vest, black pants and black shoes, Rodgers belted out the Bad Company staples "Can’t Get Enough," "Bad Company," "Ready for Love," "Burnin’ Sky," "Shooting Star," "Movin’ On," "Honey Child" and "Run with the Pack" with ease, his voice sounding almost identical to his recorded studio output.
Standing to Rodgers’ left was six-stringer Howard Leese, former Heart guitarist and long-time Rodgers collaborator. Leese put his own small spins on the Bad Company guitar solos created by Mick Ralphs, and he strapped on a mandolin for the delicate introduction to Bad Company’s Grammy Award-nominated hit from 1975, "Feel Like Makin’ Love."
Like Bad Company did on their 2001 and 2002 U.S. tours, Rodgers tacked a small piece of The Beatles’ "Ticket to Ride" onto the tail end of "Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy," and new song "With Our Love" stood respectfully next to the stack of classics.
"Seagull," to the audience’s appreciation, took a hard, unexpected left turn near song’s end. Usually, Rodgers plays the acoustic guitar and sings the song in a one-man performance, but at The Joint, the track’s last minute or two featured Rodgers’ entire band adding an electric grit.
Second guitarist guitarist Marcus Wolfe, drummer Rick Fedyk and bassist Todd Ronning stood on their toes throughout the well-paced set, keeping the band sounding like a lean, mean, fighting machine.
When Rodgers launched into Free’s criminally overlooked "Mr. Big," Ronning dug deep into his bass strings, summoning frantic notes with his long, dexterous fingers. The grinding, stop-and-start nature of the unique song gave ample room for Rodgers to unleash his blues-man wail.
Rodgers also tipped his musical hat to his mid-1980s time with Jimmy Page in The Firm, offering a grooving, almost-spooky-sounding take of "Satisfaction Guaranteed," before another ode to Free appeared. A brilliant run-through of "Walk in My Shadow" was praised loudly by hard-core Free fans, and when the sweaty, driving encore of "All Right Now" commenced at the set’s 90-minute mark, Rodgers’ voice, the band’s instruments and the audience’s singing swayed perfectly in tune and in time together.
Like Deep Purple, Rush, Kiss, Jethro Tull and The Jam, Rodgers has idiotically been ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s insanely ironic that Rodgers, the man who created so many great rock songs and still possesses rock’s greatest voice, has yet to be inducted into the hall as a member. It seems that the Hall of Fame voters would rather worship the likes of Donna Summer and Madonna than give Bad Company and Free the time of day.