Gig review: BAD COMPANY/Richie Sambora – Manchester Arena, 24 October 2016

The Best of 2016 - Live Act

GRTR!’s David Randall caught up with Simon Kirke on the last day of the UK tour.  They chatted about Bad Company, Free and Simon’s solo work including his forthcoming album to be released in early-2017.

BAD COMPANY - Manchester Arena, 24 October 2016
Photo: David Randall

With doors opening at a ludicrously early 5:30pm, the need to negotiate rush hour traffic and find affordable sustenance meant we missed a nepotistic acoustic opening set from Paul Rodgers’ son, Steve.  But frankly, hunger and the lure of a Wetherspoons’ ‘Ultimate Burger’ held greater attraction.

Richie Sambora & Orianthi - Manchester Arena, 24 October 2016

The ‘real’ support for Bad Company’s “Swan Song” tour was, however, provided by Richie Sambora + Orianthi (RSO) – a couple both musically and romantically, and with an album in the making.

Of course, you don’t spend several decades in one of biggest groups in the world without learning a thing or two about stagecraft and while Sambora may be sporting some mild middle aged spread these days (aren’t we all?) he was in remarkably good form – affable, self-effacing, and a surprisingly competent vocalist.  His patter may have been a little cheesy at times, but hats off to the man – he was out there, working his proverbial butt off when others would be happy to sit at home checking their bank balance.

Orianthi - Manchester Arena, 24 October 2016Photo: David Randall

Orianthi, while an excellent guitar foil, appears to have learned little about stage presence from working with masters like Michael Jackson and Alice Cooper; her visual contribution – in her red hat and matching lipstick, long blonde locks, and contrasting black mini skirt and thigh high boots – was limited to striking a couple of trademark poses.  And her vocals – both lead and backing – were also surprisingly lacking given the strength of her last solo release.

The couple’s choice of material was also somewhat questionable – the opener – a cover of U2′s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ was cringeworthy, and their heavy rock reworking of Sonny & Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’ something of car crash.

Richie Sambora - Manchester Arena, 24 October 2016

But in contrast, some of Bon Jovi’s biggest hits were simply magnificent – ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’, and ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ could not have been bigger crowd pleasers had Bon Jovi been on stage.  Sambora was also gracious enough- at an audience request, and unrehearsed – to play part of one of his earlier solo numbers – ‘Rosie’.  He stumbled a little, but not many big stars would have attempted it and his humble delivery just made him seem all the more genial.

Bad Company - Manchester Arena, 24 October 2016

But what everyone was here for was to see the classic Bad Company line-up of Paul Rodgers, Mick Ralphs, and Simon Kirke (supplemented on the tour by Paul Rodgers Band members Howard Leese (guitars) and Todd Ronning (bass)).

In sharp contrast to Sambora’s American showmanship, Rodgers stage persona has gentrified to the point where you could almost imagine him transitioning to Thespian ham treading the Roundhouse boards reciting the Bard.

But whatever supernatural deals have been struck, his vocal prowess remains undiminished.  And while his contemporaries’ vocals have succumbed to the ravages of time, Rodgers remains able to hit every note with power and poise.  If anything sounding even better than he did in his youth.  Nor has he lost his ability to twirl a microphone stand.  Both quite remarkable achievements.

BAD COMPANY - Manchester Arena, 24 October 2016Photo: David Randall

Kirke too, has aged well – putting on a typically powerhouse performance.  But Ralphs, in his early seventies, looked in some physical discomfort as he meandered around the stage.  He may not have added greatly to the sound, but his sheer presence made this gig.  Without him, it would have been Bad Company in name only.

BAD COMPANY - Manchester Arena, 24 October 2016Photo: David Randall

Early on, and perhaps surprisingly, ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’ from Desolation Angels usurped what I thought was a relatively lacklustre version of ‘Feel Like Making Love’, but once the band were in full flow they were an irresistible force.  ‘Burning Sky’ was an unexpected tour de force, while peerless versions of ‘Run With The Pack and ‘Ready For Love’ simply peeled back the years.

The set rolled into overdrive with ‘Movin’ On’, ‘Shooting Stars’, ‘Can’t Get Enough’, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy’ and the first encore ‘Bad Company’ before fading into the night, in time honoured tradition, with ‘Seagull’.  Although in terms of this tour, the latter was at the expense of the almost indispensable ‘Rock Steady’.  Would it have been asking too much for its inclusion also?

Bad Company - Manchester Arena, 24 October 2016

One suspects Ralphs may not tour with the band again (he didn’t appear with them in the USA in early summer this year) and it could be that an hour and twenty minutes, including encores, was all that he could sustain.  If so, it was a fitting farewell, poignantly played out on the backdrop slideshow to ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy’ of pictures from the hedonistic days in the 1970′s when bands like Bad Company were more than mere mortals.

We may never see their likes again, but for the meantime at least, Bad Company remain ‘alive and kicking’.

Review by Pete Whalley
Photos by Steve Goudie, except where stated

RSO set list:  I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Wanted Dead or Alive, Heaven in This Hell, Lay Your Hands On Me, I Got You Babe, How Do You Sleep?, Rosie, Stranger in This Town, Livin’ On A Prayer.
Bad Company set list:  Live for the Music, Gone, Gone, Gone, Feel Like Makin’ Love, Electricland, Burnin’ Sky, Run With The Pack, Ready For Love, Crazy Circles, Troubleshooter, Movin’ On, Shooting Star, Can’t Get Enough, Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy, Bad Company, Seagull.


BAD COMPANY - Manchester Arena, 24 October 2016Photo: David Randall

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