Can Night Ranger still Rock in America? The jury remains out.

Night Ranger – September 29, 2017 – The Big E – Springfield MA

Night Ranger.  Yep, that’s right I’m at Night Ranger.

To be fair I am actually at “The Big E” aka the Eastern States Exposition Fair. It’s like the state fair, but for all of New England. There are maple products, giant pumpkins, apple cider and a performance from Night Ranger included in your ticket.  Should we go?  Well, it’s free so why not?

Do you remember Night Ranger?  I had their 7” single.  No, not their big power ballad hit “Sister Christian,” their first single “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,” an MTV staple which the revolving hammered verse-structure of which I will still champion as “pretty cool,” even if I admit that by the time the band hit the chorus they fall headfirst into the “too many ideas crammed into a single song” problem.  But, they have other hits too, which come from their 12 studio albums: “Sentimental Street”, “When You Close Your Eyes”, “Four in the Morning (I Can’t Take Anymore),”… well, to be fair, those songs are all from the 5 albums released the band released between 1982 and 1988, but you get the idea.

The Big-E arena is packed with people who want to sit down and digest their bloomin’ onions and corn dogs, as well as fans of Night Ranger, and the band surprise by deftly opening with “A Touch of Madness” from their first album “Dawn Patrol.” Looking and sounding authoritatively hard-rock with a banging rhythm section, blasting guitar solos, decent haircuts and leather pants, they immediately impress, so much so it nearly obscures the weirdness of watching the flashing lights of midway rides behind the stage. Polished and perfected, the chops and excitement they bring to the stage are easily on par with the Bon Jovi’s of the world. It’s completely credible, if not unreasonably loud.

As compelling as the band are at the outset of their gig, the weird part becomes how, as the show progresses, they become their own worst enemy. It starts innocently enough, with mop-topped frontman Jack Blades reminding us of his tenure with Damn Yankees, then a few tunes later we hear about how Guitarist Brad Gillis played with Ozzy Osborne, and after that how Guitarist Keri Kelli played with Alice Cooper and Slash.  All of these stories lead us to ably played covers of those artists’ songs including “Can You Take Me High Enough”, “School’s Out” and “Crazy Train,”  And though it would be unfair to not laud the technical finesse they are delivered with, instead of reinforcing the idea that the current Night Ranger lineup is all-star, it results in giving the impression that 35 years into their career the band simply don’t have the material to fill out an interesting hour-long set. Blades’ bizarre banter from the stage, bragging to the audience about how they don’t practice and are winging it for tonight’s show doesn’t help. Breathlessly, he tells us several times the band are off to a Japanese tour in a few days, and the bitter taste begins to form in the mouth as we see the truth – this is just the practice run. It’s strange how even when you’re not paying to see a platinum selling band, they can still let you know they’re wasting your time.

Holding all of Night Ranger’s singles to be performed at the very end of their set begins to wear on the crowd. When they finally start throw down “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” and “Sister Christian” at the 1 hour mark, you’re glad they’ve finally arrived, but a resentful of the wait. Finishing with a flag-waving “You Can Still Rock In America” you get the feeling the band themselves have little faith you were going to stick around. Now, where cold they have gotten that idea?