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All right, admit it.  When you hear someone mention Night Ranger,  the first thing that pops into your mind is “Sister Christian.”  Rightfully so, as that ballad was the most successful and lasting song of their career, peaking at #5 on the Billboard charts way back in 1983.  Indeed, their defining song for sure, but I’m here to tell you they have much more up their sleeve.  Their first three albums all reached Platinum status solidifying their might in the crowded 80’s hard rock scene.  This tour’s moniker is the Dawn Patrol and Midnight Madness Double Album Tour, where the band is celebrating these albums and playing them in their entirety back to back.  I must say, the prospects of hearing these classics played as I first heard them back in the day had me looking forward to a great show.

When the house lights at The Grove dimmed, the jam-packed crowd all rose in unison, and the band began pounding out an extended intro to their anthem “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.”  When the upbeat rocker finally kicked in, goodnight.  Was it possible to be completely blown away after 30 seconds?  Night Ranger was in full-force and quickly made it clear we were in for one bad-ass show.

Jack Blades (lead vocals, bass guitar), jumping around like a spry 25-year-old nailed down the bottom end while throwing vocals that rivaled the original recordings!  He was flanked by the guitar legend Brad Gillis to his left, and Orange County’s own Keri Kelli on his right, who were trying to out-do each other all night long.  It bears to mention that in my opinion, Brad Gillis is one of the most overlooked and unappreciated guitarists in rock history.  The playing, the enthusiasm, the energy, all off the scale!  Rounding out this cohesive and talented unit was Eric Levy holding down the signature keyboard sound, and of course, Kelly Keagy on drums, lending his vocals on the hits “Sing Me Away” and, “Sister Christian.”

In between the two albums, the band played an acoustic version of “High Enough” from the Damn Yankees and “Four in the Morning,” from their 1998 release, Seven.  Blades also treated us occasionally, with some cool stories about the band from back in the day.  For example, how shocked they were to be on the road touring in their early days and learning their record company had gone broke.  Or, when their debut album Dawn Patrol was initially released, the first 10,000 copies didn’t have their full name on the album cover!  One of my favorite moments of the show was during the song “Night Ranger,” the band (minus Levy) all made their way to Keagy’s drum set and took part in the drum solo.  Four guys all pounding away all at the same time. Those poor drums.  What a spectacle you don’t see all that often.

What I found priceless was having the opportunity to attend a show with my lovely wife Paula, along with some great friends that, in a way, transported us back in time.  During those formidable years, Night Ranger was a big part of the soundtrack of our lives and definitely a time that my wife and I won't forget.  Truly special moment for us to say the least.

You too can experience the spectacle that is Night Ranger, who must be seen to appreciate.  They are on tour across the U.S. now through the summer, proving to everyone that you can indeed Still Rock in America.  Again, I cannot emphasize more what a slam-dunk good time this group is.  You’ll find yourself dancing, rocking and smiling all the way home!

John McAteer

Photojournalist - Orange County

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