Bad Company at the 3Arena, Dublin, 14 October 2016
As darkness descends over the 3Arena to the tune of Getting Better by the iconic Beatles, another band worthy of this status are introduced to the audience by a message appearing on the screens. “Ladies and Gentlemen. They’re Back!”
They’re back? Were they ever here? Any show Bad Company may have played in Ireland predates recent memory (and possibly this reviewer’s existence, being a child of the ‘90s). However, their absence from the Irish gig circuit is forgiven immediately when the calibre of the performance becomes evident.
An explosive introduction to Live for the Music bypasses any warm-up period and dives feet first into a classic rock fans fantasy setlist. Paul Rodgers – at 66 years young – quickly makes himself at home as he saunters around the stage, occasionally wielding the mic stand with the quiet confidence of a man who has perfected the art of live performance over decades.
“Thank you. Good evening. It’s great to be in Dublin”, says Rodgers. With frequent smiles passing across his face throughout the show, the hits continue. Up next is Gone, Gone, Gone, which introduces the first of many quality solos from original guitarist Mick Ralphs. “I feel pretty good myself, how about you?”, says Rodgers as he introduces Feel Like Makin’ Love which is greeted with wild enthusiasm from the crowd.
Casually making his way towards the piano alongside drummer Simon Kirke at the end of this track, Electric Land follows and then a blistering rendition of Burnin’ Sky. Make no mistake. This night is about the songs. Hearing these songs thundering down on the 3Arena gives them new life in a way that the album versions cannot. It is thrilling to hear these legendary songs delivered with such vigour.
It must also be said that while there is an energy that sets this performance apart from the recorded versions of the same songs, Rodgers sounds just as good as he ever did in the early days. A legendary frontman with a great presence, it is hard to deny his deserving place alongside others as one of the quintessential voices of rock. He is economical with his voice. He hits all the notes effortlessly, but never overdoes it, thus maximising its effect.
Acoustic guitars and mandolins come out for Crazy Circles, bringing with it a subtle change of pace. Shooting Star places the ghosts of rock n roll’s past under the spotlight as images of legends who died young fill the screens, including Hendrix and our very own Phil Lynott. The crowd is invited to sing the last verse and chorus. “Johnny died one night, died in his bed…”. This performance is relished by support act Richie Sambora who after clandestinely placing himself within the audience next to this reviewer, was particularly vocal during this special performance. Obviously a big fan.
“I’m sure you remember this one”, quips Rodgers as Can’t Get Enough brings us closer to the end of the show. The band are fundamentally solid, and moments like the twin guitar solo between Ralphs and Howard Leese are tight.
“Thanks for being part of our rock n’ roll fantasy tonight. It’s a beautiful thing”. Another explosive intro. Another chance for the audience to sing their hearts out to another classic hit, Rock n’ Roll Fantasy. The pictures from the early days on the screens are a nice touch for a band who probably can’t help but feel nostalgic.
Bad Company conclude the main set but emerge immediately afterwards with Bad Company and Rock Steady. It is a finale that is everything you want it to be from a band who are deserving of much credit for their contribution to rock n’ roll, as well as sincere respect for keeping these iconic songs alive with such passion.