Night Ranger Plays To Sold Out MGM Crowd
December 8th, 2019
'80s hitmakers Night Ranger returned to the North Coast last night to show that Cleveland, yes, still dreams about them. The Bay Area band, founded in 1979, came to town on a special mission: They played two of their biggest albums, 1982's Dawn Patrol and 1983's Midnight Madness, in their entirety.
Picking up on a current trend of touring not in support of newer music, but rather in celebration of their heralded, halcyon work, frontman Jack Blades exclaimed early in the evening that many of the songs on those albums hadn't been played in almost 35 years, if they ever got a rotation in their sets to begin with. Some with good reason; Side Two of Midnight Madness gave us "Chippin' Away," a truly godawful tune that sounds like a parody song best left to the likes of Steel Panther or Spinal Tap. But, to be fair, the majority of the songs were met with a Saturday night-enthusiasm from the sold-out MGM crowd.
Playing the first record sequentially and the second somewhat out of order, saving the outfit's biggest hits until almost the end of the two-album run, the band offered up "When You Close Your Eyes" and "Sister Christian" towards the end of the Midnight Madness set.
Starting the evening with the first tune on side one of Dawn Patrol, "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," got the crowd up on their feet. They played that album in order; each tune was presented as it appeared on each side of the record.
Offering up Midnight Madness was a different beast; the songs were played in terms of a slow burn buildup. You knew that their two biggest hits would be coming, but they were saved for last. They eschewed a typical encore. After all, how does a band offer an encore when the evening revolves around two complete albums? Instead, a few "bonus" tunes were tossed in for good measure, putting Night Ranger onstage for almost two and a half hours.
Blades introduced one of newcomer Keri Kelli's good friends, Akron native Tim "Ripper" Owens, who joined the quintet for a raucous cover of Judas Priest's "You Got Another Thing Coming." That was truly unexpected.
Playing four more tunes, they first gave us "The Secret of My Success," from 1987's Big Life (and the title tune to the Michael J. Fox comedy), before closing things out with a Damn Yankees cover of "Coming of Age." Then, fittingly, the night was really over with "Goodbye" from 7 Wishes.
The band has always been a little unconventional as they've historically shared vocal duties; drummer Kelly Keagy took lead vocals on a handful of the songs, most notably "Sister Christian," while erstwhile bassist Jack Blades has always sung others. There seems to be a definite lack of ego in this troop; prior to the show I was standing chatting with a security guard at stage right, near the pit. Lead guitarist and whammy bar aficionado Brad Gillis popped his head out from behind the curtain, recognized a wheelchair-bound fan, came over to him and gave him a bear hug greeting. The young man, Clevelander Brian Posey, lit up like a Christmas tree. He spends half his year in Cleveland and the other half in the warmer climes of Florida, all the while catching Night Ranger shows whenever the band comes to either of Posey's towns.
Blades thanked the Cleveland crowd for their decades-long support; Keagy thanked WMMS for the early airplay that put Night Ranger on the map in the early '80s.
It seems that the band loves Cleveland almost as much as Cleveland loves them.
Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley