At The City Hall, Newcastle, U.K., October 10, 2006

It is a testament to the stature of Paul Rodgers that his show at the legendary City Hall in Newcastle was sold out in a matter of days. In fact, his tour sold out in the sort of time one would expect from a high flying chart act. Tonight’s show is particularly close to Rodgers’ heart, being a stones throw away from his Teesside birthplace and just up the road from the venue where Free’s classic Free Live was recorded way back in Sunderland in 1971.

Rodgers strolled onto the stage to a rapturous welcome and launched into Free’s “I’ll Be Creepin’” before heading straight into “The Stealer,” which immediately got the crowd eating out of his hand. For this tour, Rodgers has assembled a potent band featuring Howard Leese from Melodic Folk Rockers, Heart, on guitar, Ryan Hoyle of Collective Soul fame on drums and bassist Lynn Sorensen, and last but not least Kurt Dengler on guitar, who at an incredible 17 years old was born almost two decades after Rodgers’ Free heyday. At a time when most kids of his age are getting ready for their final year at school, Dengler is ripping it up on stage with a veritable Rock legend. What better schooling can anyone ask? His band formed the platform upon which Rodgers holds court.

Rodgers himself rolls back the years, appearing more youthful and sleeker than in his Free days, resplendent in a black vest and designer ripped jeans. His stage craft is paradoxically understated, yet he dominates in a way where he covers every inch of the stage, shaking as many hands as possible, while avoiding some of the clichéd histrionics of some of his peers. His warm charisma pervades to the very soul of the music and his lush velvet-like voice tells the story of the Blues like nobody else can.

Throughout the set, Rodgers cherry picks from his fine catalogue of work… from Free’s “Be My Friend,” where Rodgers closed the song with a fine piece of a cappella vocals, “I’m A Mover” and “Fire and Water,” to Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” complete with a harmonica solo from Rodgers, and “Bad Company.” The Firm, his project featuring Jimmy Page, was represented by “Radioactive,” while Rodgers’ Blues credentials were displayed in their full glory on a spellbinding version of “Louisiana Blues” from his Grammy nominated Muddy Waters Blues set. Now for those who don’t posses this gem, this is one to hunt down and make sure you pick up (the limited edition version) for the bonus disc of re-recorded Rodgers classics.

Although most of the material played was from an earlier era with “Wishing Well” being the highlight of a set crammed full of highlights, Rodgers did reveal that new material is forthcoming to the delight of the crowd, and aired “Warboys,” which he introduced as “A prayer for peace” as he launched into an acoustic-based piece with an almost military backbeat and an impassioned chorus. Rodgers implored: “Who gives the power to those in power?” as a fiery, wah-soaked solo from Dengler ascended the rafters of the City Hall. This certainly points to a bright future for Rodgers.

The show was not just about Rodgers. He was clearly supremely confident with his ability that he steps back from the limelight allowing the spotlight to shine particularly on Leese, with his almost Andy Warhol-like appearance, and Dangler, who between them scream and soar as they dueled on the opposite sides of the stage with the harmony solo on “Be My Friend” — particularly impressive. Even bassman Sorensen stepped forward when invited by Rodgers during the set closing “All Right Now,” in which Rodgers hurled his microphone stand high up into the air and caught it right on cue.

As the show drew to a close with an impressive array of encores, including Bad Company’s “Can’t Get Enough” and “The Hunter” before “Heartbreaker” saw the band walk off for the final time of the night. All was not over, however, as Rodgers re-entered the stage with an acoustic guitar for a moving rendition of “Seagull.”

Tonight Rodgers showed what a truly great singer and top class performer he is, and was befitting of someone with his legendary status. Along with his band, which combined youth with experience; he provided a night of entertainment that will live long in the memories of those who attended.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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