Royal Albert Hall
Our 2nd night in succession with The Voice (Paul should sue the bloody tv show) and his fantastic band, playing a full set of songs by Free, many of which were never played live by the original band. The previous night had been a loud, hot, sweaty night in Birmingham, with the audience raising the roof of the beautiful Symphony Hall, as Paul grinned like he was the happiest man on the planet. So, on the 2nd night, I was worried that the more staid London audience would just sit on their hands, and get swallowed up by the whole “OMG but the Albert Hall is beautiful,” thing. I need not have worried, not one bit.
Firstly, the band. Paul has toured with Deborah Bonham as his support act a few times. He has known her for years and she has always had a strong band. Paul did a charity gig a few years back, with Deborah’s band, and loved that they just fell in behind him when he started to sing Fire & Water or The Stealer. The rhythm section of Ian Rowley on bass and Rich Newman on drums step into some pretty big shoes, and do so with ease. Rowley’s solo in Mr Big is stunning, really paying tribute to the late Andy Fraser perfectly. On keyboards is Gerard Louis (“G”) who adds a great layer of piano sounds and gets a huge cheer when his Beethoven changes slip into the intro to My Brother Jake. Obviously, the biggest shoes to fill are Paul Kossoff’s and Pete Bullick, Deborah Bonham’s husband, does a brilliant job. Always leaning towards Koss, but never just repeating his licks, he is a fantastic foil for Rodgers. And so, to The Voice.
I have seen Paul many times and I swear he is singing better than ever on this tour. He also looked as though he was having just the best time. Some old album tracks like Ride On A Pony, Love You So, Catch A Train and the gorgeous Be My Friend were perfectly mixed in with ‘the classics’ like Fire & Water, The Hunter, Little Bit Of Love and The Stealer. We all knew what the encore would be but he cleverly stayed out when All Right Now had lifted the roof off the old hall, and blasted through Wishing Well, coming back out for a 2nd time for Walk In My Shadow and Catch A Train. A truly memorable night, especially after the absolute joy of the night before.
Surprisingly diverse, both in age and sex. Lots of Bad Company t-shirts, plenty of beards but loads of love for a great, great singer. There is a running gag amongst PR fans that, when he finally gets to All Right Now, you can hear a crescendo of voices going “Oh, THAT’S who he is?” But, tonight, it was wall to wall fans, loving the fact that they were hearing these great songs, played so lovingly and so well, and that Paul was having a blast.
It made me think..
Free were, in my opinion, the Greatest British Band of the ’70’s. That is up for debate.
Paul Rodgers is the Greatest Rock Singer of all time. About that, there is no debate.