The Stars Align Tour
Written By Patrick Ortiz
In general, there is an unfortunate lack of true rock and roll bands that perform today. Before you get enraged and want to bombard me with angry comments, I do recognize that there are some talented bands out there that hearken back to the time of classic rock, like the young guys in Greta Van Fleet, Pearl Jam, and several others. All I’m saying is that there is a noticeable absence of rock bands compared to the 60’s and 70’s. Sure, music like everything else consistently evolves and our taste alters along with it, but this evolution is currently snagged in a precarious and confusion realm.
As a kid, listening to my dad tell stories about watching all of these legendary, now “classic-rock” icons live in concert didn’t really mean too much to me. Now, after years of appreciating music and noticing how much passion musicians used to put in their live shows and their craft in general compared to now, I imagine these past events as surreal experiences that I may never have. I mean, my dad saw Pink Floyd performing Dark Side of the Moon live at Madison Square Garden, Led Zeppelin way too many times to count during various stages of their career, Jethro Tull when Ian Anderson performed acrobatics while playing some of the most complicated lines on a flute, and he even went to Woodstock!
I begrudgingly listen to these stories about the heyday of rock music as Ariana Grande and mumble rap dominate the current mainstream music culture. Like I said, it isn’t ALL bad; I discover new great bands every day, but when the desire for classic rock and roll groups and the competition between them is nonexistent, these bands tend to fall on deaf ears. There are some upsides though, some of our favorite musicians from those days are still around and continue to produce music and play live shows. Keep in mind that they may not sound exactly like you remember from thirty-fifty years ago, but that is life.
Recently, I saw an advertisement for a “Stars Align Tour” which would feature Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers, and Ann Wilson. Beck is one of my (and mostly all guitarist’s) favorite musicians and I love Rodger’s work in Bad Company and Free, so I convinced my dad to come check it out with me. We didn’t know what to expect; was this going to be a mashup collaboration with all the musicians or would they be trying to relive their glory days with fan-favorite covers? Honestly, we were left a little jaded after seeing Jethro Tull a few month ago. I don’t blame Ian Anderson for getting older, but the tunes we know and love just didn’t have the same emotion and intensity as the record or how my dad remembers them. So, we were going into this show with little to no expectations.
The main theme from this awesome night of music is: Great music and talent knows no age. You’ll understand what that means shortly.
Opening Act and Ann Wilson
With no announcement of an opening act for the three legendary performers, the crowd was taken aback when, who we thought was a roadie testing the sound of a guitar, began strumming some chords as a lady in a white sundress came on stage. After one crowd-pleasing song, she introduced herself as Deborah Bonham, younger sister to the late Zeppelin drummer, John. With John’s son Jason cheering on his aunt from side stage, Deborah gave a strong vocal performance which included a few of her original tunes.
Then came one of the most super-charged and formidable females in rock history, Ann Wilson. After a tense family situation soured her relationship with fellow band mate and sister Nancy, Heart has since been on a hiatus, leaving Ann to find a group of suitable musicians to accompany her stellar voice. The non-stop set included some recognizable and great obscure covers that will be featured on her upcoming album Immortal in which she honors celebrated musicians who we have recently lost. However, that didn’t stop her from playing Heart’s classic tune “Barracuda.” Wilson’s voice was powerful enough to stop a freight train and at 68 years old, she sounded just as crisp and clean as ever.
One aspect of the show that can not go unnoticed or understated is the proficiency of the stage crew; they had each performer’s gear lined up and ready to go within five to ten minutes. Just had to give a quick shout out to the hardworking people behind the scenes!
So, I have been listening to Bad Company for many years and was aware about Paul Rodger’s vocal abilities. After hearing him live and going back to earlier records, he may be my new favorite rock vocalist. Taking a break from touring with his long-standing group, Bad Company, Rodgers and other incredible musicians have been playing a mashup of popular songs from both of Rodger’s bands, Bad Company and Free. As he belts out “Feel Like Makin’ Love” just like on the album and performs his signature one-handed mic stand twirl, you forget and are stunned by the fact that this guy is 68 and in better shape than most 40-year-olds.
Rodgers has been performing non-stop in multiple projects for about fifty years and shows no inkling of slowing down.
Jeff Beck is arguably – by Joe Bonamassa, me, and many other musicians – hands down one of the best guitarists in history. His invaluable experience, technique, and unique sound put him in a separate category from all other musicians. At 74 years old, Jeff Beck is truly a living blues-rock guitar legend and hasn’t lost an ounce of skill or swagger. Then there is the all-star collection of musicians behind him including Vinnie Colaiuta on drums who has worked in very genre under the sun and with many notable musicians. Vinnie’s drumming is nothing short of amazing and his variations on simple drum patterns and impeccable timing make him one of the best, most in-demand drummers around. Beck also is known for hiring dynamite female bassists like Tal Wilkenfield and now Rhonda Smith who has played with Prince, Beyoncé, and George Clinton. She is a funky, in the pocket player who can keep up with Vinnie which is a feat in itself! She also can slap the bass and do a bunch of complicated tricks that truly blew my mind. He also featured beautiful cellist, Vanessa Freebairn-Smith. She has all of the marks of a classically trained cellist but can shred the hell out of that instrument. She was able to match Beck note for note in a wild frenzy of notes that had everyone on their feet!
The one disappointing note for me was the singer that was featured on a few tunes like “Morning Dew” and “Superstition.” His voice just did not blend well with the rest of the musicians and stood out like an outcast.
With that being said, the whole night was amazing. I consider myself lucky even in today’s musical climate, to be able to see some of my musical idols perform on stage at such a high caliber.