Twelve months on from his last tour of the UK Arena's with Bad Company, Paul Rodgers rolled back the years to give an electrifying performance at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena. With a band including former Heart guitarist Howard Leese and Black Country Communion's Jason Bonham this was a set that spanned Rodger's illustrious career including numerous highlights from the Free and Bad Company back catalogue. Before the main event there was an entertaining special guest slot from Joe Elliott's Down 'n' Outz that saw the Def Leppard frontman, backed by assorted members of the Quireboys, deliver their own take on some of the lesser known songs of his beloved Mott The Hoople.
Elliott is clearly enjoying himself away from his day job as he leads the band through an upbeat 45 minutes of 1970s anthems including "Rock & Roll Queen", "One of the Boys" and "England Rocks" that capture the spirit of the originals whilst presenting them to a new audience. With a second album on the way this is clearly intended to be an ongoing project and its occasions such as this, when they are warming up the crowd for the main act, that the Down 'n' Outz can really be best appreciated.
From the moment he opens his mouth Paul Rodgers is simply in impeccable form. This might be the final night of the UK tour but his voice displays no signs of wear and tear as he launches into "Walk In My Shadow". With his trademark twirling of the mic stand Rodgers elicits an ecstatic response from the crowd as "Wishing Well" and "Mr Big" immediately follow on. The hugely impressive Howard Leese straps on a mandolin which heralds the intro to one of the nights stand out moments in "Feel Like Makin' Love" and it is evident that this will be a gig to cherish. For the most part the set continues to alternate between Classic Bad Company and Free but a new number "Take Love" is showcased and proves to be an excellent driving blues rocker. Rodgers voice soars around the Arena during the acoustic "Seagull" and he then take up position at the piano for the upbeat "Run With The Pack" and brilliant "Bad Company". A sidestep into the Hendrix songbook and "Little Wing" proves to be an inspired choice and leads into an emotional "Shooting Star" where the audience takes over for the final verse and this is carried over into "Rock n Roll Fantasy" and, of course, "Can't Get Enough".
A memorable evening of classic rock sung and performed to the highest standard is eventually closed out by a three song encore from the Free songbook "Ride On A Pony", "All Right Now" and "The Hunter". With the show also being filmed for an upcoming DVD release this is one that will be remembered for a long time.
Reviewed by Dean Pedley with thanks to Ian Harvey for the pics – check out www.rocktasticpix.com for more great concert images