Night Ranger in Wilkes-Barre
Night Ranger – November 24th, 2017
The FM Kirby Center – Wilkes Barre PA
Photography and Written by: Kendle Peters, 90.7 WCLH Wilkes-Barre Scranton Hazleton Metal Director
Night Ranger celebrated their 35th Anniversary this year with Wilkes-Barre. It was a packed house at the FM Kirby Center, and everyone was ready to rock.
Night Ranger started the night; Loverboy would follow. The guys in Night Ranger really set the mood, as everyone was standing, dancing, and just having a great night.
Show time was at 8:00pm EST and Night Ranger hit the stage playing one of their newest tracks ‘Somehow Someway’ off their latest release ‘Don’t Let Up (2017).’ It was a great way to start the set, as it also was the first track and mood setter on this release. ‘Somehow Someway’ would be the only modern track they played throughout the night. It would have been cool to hear some more off ‘Don’t Let Up,’ but I’m still grateful when bands bring out at least one new track these days.
Then, without a warning, Night Ranger would break into ‘Four in the Morning,’ one of my favorite studio tracks, but when live, packs another kind of punch. The only time I heard it live before was on Night Ranger’s ‘Live in Japan’ release (1988). Thankfully, Night Ranger just happens to be one of those bands who take the utmost pride in their work, true musicians who, from what I concur, sound just like they did in ’88.
To fully describe the opening trifecta, the next song would be ‘Sing Me Away.’ Kelly Keagy sung that audience away all night. I feel Keagy’s vocal performance was high in rank of the show’s multiple stand-outs. Keagy’s singing made even more of a statement when he left his drum set, and went center stage for songs like ‘Sentimental Street’ and ‘Sister Christian.’ Drums were standard, sounding like the studio recordings. On the other hand, Keagy would take a different vocal approach as compared to the records, adding more here and there, and overall showcasing his rightful spot in the ‘Top 5 Singing Drummers.’
So what was another stand-out? Brad Gillis.
This was the first time I’ve seen Gillis play live. I had been looking forward to this for may years. In my humble opinion, he delivered the best solo on the Hear ‘N Aid release ‘Stars,’ and that’s saying a lot, being up against Neal Schon, Yngwie Malmsteen, and my all-time favorite, George Lynch. So consider that opinion, and my knowledge of his live playing, particularly on Ozzy’s ‘Speak of Devil,’ and I had a lot to look forward to hearing on November 24th.
Well, I wasn’t disappointed. I heard the tone I had admired, the one Gillis talked about achieving in a video where he described the set-up for his ‘Sister Christian’ solo. Now, that sound was filling the FM Kirby Center and I couldn’t have been happier.
Night Ranger would add some Ozzy, Deep Purple, and Damn Yankees into their set. For ‘Crazy Train,’ it was like hearing Gillis back in his Ozzy days. As for them Damn Yankees, it was interesting to hear his take on the Nugent solo in ‘High Enough.’
Though Gillis has always been a stand-out player, the complimentary guitars of he and Jeff Watson, in the early days, made the team one of my favorites in a genre of Murray/Smith, Wilton/DeGarmo, Clark/Collen, and Mustaine/Friedman to name a few. Now, Night Ranger has had with them their latest addition, Kerri Kelli, on guitar, offering the same element to the band’s sound.
Guitars aside, there is no doubt that Blades and Keagy offer a unique, dynamic vocal approach that makes Night Ranger who they are. I had the pleasure of speaking with Blades and Keagy on my classic metal show. I asked them about their approach, and would learn they choose who sings a particular track based on the song’s lyrical content and instrumentation.
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Keagy has a reputation for singing the ballads. Therefore, we talked about Blades, this time, singing the ballad ‘Nothing Left of Yesterday’ on their latest release. No matter the usual approach, the song is a great one, and is one of the tracks I would love to hear in the live set. I admire the start of the pre-chorus, its slight rise in notes (“She gave him love, guess it wasn’t quite enough…”) into the ‘in-your-face’ chorus…. hey! it kicks ass and is an instant classic.
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Maybe we’ll hear it next time! Even before Night Ranger hit our town, Blades and Keagy expressed their excitement in coming to Wilkes-barre. The crowd was just as excited, and this seemed to have influenced Blades’ announcement that Night Ranger would be back! Until then, we have the moments from this show and the Night Ranger discography.
I credit Night Ranger as being the first band that got me into my heavy metal lifestyle. I didn’t quite learn about love in the back of a Chevrolet, but as a child, I did learn to love Night Ranger in the back seat of my dad’s car. We listened to the best of Night Ranger, and that since, has extended to mostly everything hard rock, metal, and Night Ranger. I am grateful now and always, that I get to play them on the air. Hear Night Ranger during Metal Mondays and Metal Lockdown on 90.7FM WCLH Wilkes University.