The first time I saw Night Ranger perform was back in November of 1985 at a small college gymnasium on the south side of Bethlehem, PA. Back then, the band was out in support of their third album, Seven Wishes, and riding the wave of success of MTV and their radio friendly hits like “Sister Christian,” “When You Close Your Eyes,” and “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.”
Since that November evening, I’ve seen Night Ranger more than a dozen times. Everywhere from outdoor festivals and concert arenas to intimate stages and tiny clubs in the heart of big cities. Each time, the band never fails to deliver a high energy performance.
Night Ranger, who’s lineup includes Jack Blades (lead vocals/bass), Kelly Keagy (drums/lead vocals), Brad Gillis (guitar/vocals), Eric Levy (keyboards) and Keri Kelli (guitar/vocals) has sold more than seventeen million albums and performed more then 3,500 shows.
I recently made the pilgrimage to Mount Pocono, PA to catch the band perform as part of The Sherman Theater’s Summer Stage at Mount Airy Casino Resort.
In an era where most classic rock bands relegate themselves to touring only their hits every summer, Night Ranger refuses to acquiesce to the status quo. In the past eight years, the band has released three full-length studio albums and began the show with a brand new song— taking the stage to the sounds of “Somehow Someway,” a track from their latest album, Don’t Let Up!
Night Ranger then took fans on a whimsical journey through their vast musical arsenal. Beginning with “Four In The Morning,” a song from the aforementioned Seven Wishes, which was immediately followed by the hook-laden “Sing Me Away,” taken from the band’s 1982 debut, Dawn Patrol.
Most classic rock aficionados know that during the late eighties and early nineties, bassist Jack Blades was part of the supergroup, Damn Yankees. Several of that units hits — “Coming Of Age,” “Come Again,” “High Enough” — found their way into the set as well as an infectious, and acoustic, cover of Don Henley’s “The Boys Of Summer.”
Other highlights included songs like “The Secret of My Success” (complete with audience participation) and the acoustically peformed “Goodbye,” a song Blades admits has come to mean different things to different people since its release more than three decades ago. Deep cut performances of songs like “Night Ranger” and “Why Does Love Have To Change” fueled the craving of diehard fans and proved the band is not content to just rest on their laurels and deliver only hits.
Jack Blades continues to solidify himself as one of rocks most quintessential front men. Not only does he have the bass and vocal skills but his love of the craft and passion for live performance interaction is insatiably genuine.
Guitarist Brad Gillis, himself a master of melody, inspired the crowd with his virtuosity, particularly on tracks like “When You Close Your Eyes” and “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.” The latter of which serving as a savage ride of guitar fury. Together with fellow guitarist Keri Kelli, they’re one of the genres best one-two punches.
Eric Levy showcased his own skills with a tasty keyboard solo that tranistioned into a powerful version of “Sentimental Street,” complete with drummer Kelly Keagy taking center stage on vocals.
Speaking of Keagy, who’s vocal capability is equal to his skills on drums, he performed an incredible solo where he was accompanied on drums by members of the band. Keagy later brought the audience to its feet by soaring to the incredible high notes on the band’s iconic hit, “Sister Christian.”
The band closed out its set with the anthemic “(You Can Still) Rock In America.” A song that’s become an unspoken mantra for classic rock fans. Overall, Night Ranger’s performance was a time capsule celebration of the past and present as well as a look to the future.
As I drove down the long and winding road from Mount Pocono toward home, I couldn’t help but reminisce about that night in Bethlehem almost thirty-five years ago, and how, even after all this time, the band remains as relevant as ever.
Night Ranger Set List (Mount Airy Casino / Resort)
Four In The Morning
Sing Me Away
Coming of Age (Damn Yankees cover)
Keyboard Solo / Sentimental Street
The Secret Of My Success
Why Does Love Have to Change
The Boys of Summer (Don Henley cover)
Night Ranger (w. drum solo)
Come Again / High Enough (Damn Yankees cover)
When You Close Your Eyes
Don’t Tell Me You Love Me
(You Can Still) Rock In America