Night Ranger was announced to headline the Celebration 2013 event in Martinsville, Virginia on July 3. It was the first time that a rock act topped the bill as country acts were generally the star attraction. Mother Nature was not a happy camper early in the day as rain poured down almost all day long and posed a threat that the event may not even happen. I’m not sure if Mother Nature had an urge to break out her spandex and aquanet, but the skies cleared an hour or two before show time and the rain held off and it turned into a pretty amazing night.
The band came out to the stage a few minutes early to do a pre-show accapella version of the National Anthem. They returned a few minutes later with instruments by their sides and ready to show those in attendance that can still rock in America. The hits were plentiful as the evening progressed and the crowd loosened up and rose to their feet and began to have fun. Lead vocalist/bassist Jack Blades delivered such classics as “When You Close Your Eyes”, “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” and “You Can Still Rock in America” as the band really hit the stage running on all cylinders and never slowed down.
The twin guitar attack of original member Brad Gillis and Joel Hoeskstra (Trans-Siberian Orchestra/Rock of Ages) put on a clinic for the fans as their combination of blistering leads and outstanding showmanship showed those in attendance an element that is sorely missing in live shows today. Drummer Kelly Keagy is also a co-lead vocalist and he actually stepped out from behind the kit several times to take center stage to deliver some of his well known vocal contributions including “Sentimental Street”, “Sing Me Away” and of course, the power ballad “Sister Christian”.
There were a few surprises thrown in as well for the fans. Guitarist Brad Gillis played briefly with Ozzy Osbourne after the death of guitarist Randy Rhoades. To acknowledge that period of Brad’s career, a blistering version of “Crazy Train” was performed. The solo that Brad layed down was spot on and makes you wonder why he doesn’t get more credit for his skills on the axe. Also, Jack Blades was also in the spin-off project Damn Yankees which featured Ted Nugent, Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw and Michael Cartellone. The band performed two of their hits as well including “Coming of Age” and the power ballad “High Enough”.
Overall, it was a pretty amazing night of rock and roll. The showmanship and comradery between all five of these guys on stage is some of the best that you will see. The guys are definitely having a blast up there and it’s very contagious as you watch them. The 80s and the whole “hair band” period, which I don’t consider Night Ranger a part of other than being around during those years, seems to take a beating. You know, some of those beatings are justified as there was a lot of crap out there as the market became oversaturated, but the fact that these guys are still active and being creative after 30 plus years says something.