Night Ranger | 05.27.07

live_nightrangerThe main thing to note is that Night Ranger is a pop vocal group backed by good musicianship, and every one of them can sing fantastic while playing guitar.





Rib America Festival, St. Louis

See, now I feel bad. As Seth McFarlane recently pointed out, one way to tell that you're really high is if you are actually enjoying listening to Night Ranger. Well if that's the way it is, then you'd better pass the Visine, 'cause at this year's Rib Fest, Night Ranger was kicking ass.

Now follow along with me here. I am not that big a fan of all of their tunes, but I am a connoisseur of fine guitar playing and good musicianship, and today's lineup was completely top notch. They had Michael Lardie from Great White filling in for Alan Fitzgerald on keys. Kelly Keagy, the original drummer, sang difficult lead and harmony vocal parts while jamming flat out on the drums. Jack Blades, the original bass player and singer, was jumpin' around like a nut and still nailing all of the parts. He's at the top of his game, just having finished the Blades & Shaw project with Tommy Shaw of Styx and his previous work with the Damn Yankees. Brad Gillis is an actual, living, breathing guitar hero legend, being the first guitar player to fill the very large shoes of Randy Rhoads with Ozzy after his untimely death in March 1982. I consider Gillis to be the very best at the use of the whammy bar. You know what I mean: the vibrato bar, the tremolo, the floyd rose, whatever you want to call the damn thing. Van Halen was considered the pioneer, Satriani is so flawless with it, and Vai is able to practically communicate with aliens with it. To me, Gillis takes the crown in terms of using the bar within melodies to create a style of expression that is uniquely identifiable as his own. The live recordings from Ozzy's Speak of the Devil are still some of my favorite versions of all of the old Black Sabbath classics, even to this day.

I was especially excited to see Jeff Watson play again. He is most noted for his two-hand tapping technique using all eight fingers. I also wanted to see if they would play anything from his work with the Steve Morse Band on the 1991 masterpiece Southern Steel. It was obvious right away that Jeff Watson was not with them on this tour, so I was trying to figure out who the replacement could be; after all, there are only a handful of guys that would fit the bill. Just as I thought, turns out it was Reb Beach of Winger and Whitesnake, a true bad-ass in his own right. I really consider him to be the last great shredder to gain notoriety in the mainstream. It was interesting to see his technique of covering the eight-finger parts that Watson played on the records, especially as Beach used only his three left-hand fingers and his right index. So four fingers rather than the five I would expect, or the eight from the original, but he was still able to cop all the notes through sheer speed. Amazing.

The main thing to note is that Night Ranger is a pop vocal group backed by good musicianship. The played some acoustic tunes like "High Enough," and every one of them can sing fantastic while playing guitar. If you look at the catalog of hits that this collective group of guys has been involved with, it is staggering. To see them all together on stage putting their hearts into the music is just plain inspiring, and I would stand in the rain to hear them anytime. | Derek Lauer

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