Shaw-Blades | 11.15.07

shawblades.jpgNeither Shaw nor Blades looks any worse for wear and their vocals were as good as or better than ever. They harmonize together effortlessly. The full sound of the trio was rounded out with Will Evankovich sitting in the middle providing solid rhythms on bass and guitar and adding to the vocal harmonies.  

 

Bottleneck Blues Bar – Ameristar Casino, St. Louis

This was a long awaited rare chance to see two bonafide rock stars up close and personal playing songs they love just because it feels good. Tommy Shaw is best known for his guitar and vocal work with Styx and Jack Blades as the bassist and vocalist in Night Ranger. They have also written hits together in Damn Yankees after already having chart topping careers. Now, Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades have teamed up to pay homage to some of the music that influenced them most when they were kids. Their new disc Influences (VH-1 Classics) strives to capture the spirit of the great vocal and guitar music from the 60’s and 70’s.

The Bottleneck Blues bar was definitely the right venue for this show. At first I thought it was too small for something of this magnitude, but it proved fitting for the scene they were trying to create. The stage was set up a bit like someone’s living room, complete with a couple of couches behind them, where a few people from the audience sat during the show amidst twirls of smoke rising from burning incense.           

Shaw and Blades brought the sold out crowd roaring to their feet several times by playing songs of their own creation like "Don’t Tell Me You Love Me" and "Blue Collar Man," though it was the classic rock covers that had the audience singing all night. They selected songs a lot of people grew up with and know the words to. They played great versions of "Dirty Work," the free spirited "Summer Breeze," and hippie anthem "Time of the Season." I was a little surprised not to hear Shaw’s trademark "Crystal Ball" or the classic Simon and Garfunkel "Sounds of Silence" that appears on the disc; though they did pay tribute to the songwriting duo with "I Am A Rock." A couple of my favorite tunes of the evening were "Lucky Man" and "California Dreamin’."  I was amazed at how their arrangements were able to transform big epic tunes into an acoustic setting. I left floating on clouds with "I’ve Seen All Good People" resonating in my head.

Neither Shaw nor Blades looks any worse for wear and their vocals were as good as or better than ever. They harmonize together effortlessly. The full sound of the trio was rounded out with Will Evankovich sitting in the middle providing solid rhythms on bass and guitar and adding to the vocal harmonies.

You’ve got to figure that guys like that have endless stories about the people they’ve known and life on the road. I loved the personal insight they gave into that world with their song introductions, including the time they were at Blades’ California home writing and recording for Damn Yankees and, after hearing some small arms fire, in walks Ted Nugent with squirrel in hand. Those are beautiful moments in the rock’n’roll life, and when those stories are shared like that with the audience, it makes you feel more connected to the music.

They were having such a good time together it was contagious. At one point Shaw made a not-so-subtle segue into a few bars of the famed roller rink hit "Stop in the Name of Love," which was immediately halted by Blades making insinuations about the questionable masculinity of Shaw’s appearance. Going so far as to pull out a poster size print of Shaw on roller skates from the 70’s, which in turn opened up Blades to a barrage of comments about the big hair days of Night Ranger, leading them right into a surprisingly touching version of "Sister Christian." Now obviously that exchange was not totally spontaneous, but they were having such a genuinely good time doing it, there were spontaneous moments and comments within that transition’s framework. Seasoned entertainers doing what they love with people they are comfortable with.

These two guys are living legends with seemingly unlimited skills backed by a lifetime of experience. Check out their new disc Influences to hear some of the greatest songs of our times reinterpreted by these master craftsmen.| Derek Lauer

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