Paul Rodgers - Seminole Hard Rock Live Hollywood - January 16
In our experience, artists who file with the prefix "classic" before their genre face the inevitable loss of some of "the magic" with age.
However, Paul Rodgers' performance last night at Hollywood's Seminole Hard Rock Live showed that he's a man who deems himself above the generally unbending laws of both nature and rock 'n' roll. Rodgers gave fans nearly two hours' worth of vocal chops and swagger that appeared to have suffered little over the passage of the 43 years since Free's "All Right Now" hit the airwaves in 1970.
Yet another performance granted by the grace of a musically themed cruise (the Rock Legends Cruise II) departing our shores, Rodgers and his band hit the stage around 8 p.m. to a solidly packed room. Those with floor seats rose to greet the Brit as he strutted down the small catwalk at the foot of the stage and hit the initial bellows of "Can't Get Enough." The singer's voice was powerful, controlled, and everything one would expect from the overwhelming number of hits built around it. As guitarists Howard Leese and Markus Wolfe melded together a harmonized lead at the foot of the stage, Rodgers stood back, triumphantly spinning a chrome mic stand he held overhead as the rock 'n' roll fantasy unfolded.
Following "Honey Child," Leese, formerly and most famously of Heart, appeared alone at center stage with a mandolin for the third song of the evening. The twinkly bits Leese plucked from the small instrument stoked the crowd as they immediately recognized the introduction to the megahit "Feel Like Making Love." The song roused any remaining holdouts from their seats by the time the first chorus crashed through the room.
After getting everyone on their feet and loose, Rodgers and his band hit off the unexpected cut "Mr. Big" to the delight of the Free fans in attendance. While the more streamlined and pop-oriented sounds of Rodgers' work with Bad Company were certainly the focal point of the night for many -- easily spotted by their unison return to their seats during the Free numbers -- the tough, swaggering, and stripped-down rock of the Free tracks performed were a serious highlight for the rest of us, "Mr. Big" in particular.
Rodgers was full of energy and commanded the air-tight set in a way that spoke to his years of experience without giving even a hint of the man's age. He stood at a piano and hammered away the keys for "Running With the Pack," moved with ease, and spun his mic stand while belting out hit after hit.