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Monday, July 11, 2011

DVD Review: Bad Company - Live at Wembley

Bad Company - Live at Wembley
2011 Eagle Vision
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

You sometimes forget just how many major hits Bad Company has until you witness them all loaded up like a stockade of trusty rock 'n roll arms. While "Feel Like Makin' Love" is perhaps the goodtime sex anthem for the ages, Bad Company is hardly a one-trick pony.

What's always been fascinating about Bad Company beyond its chemical makeup of Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke of Free, Mott the Hoople's Mick Ralphs and original bass player Boz Burrell from King Crimson is the fact a corral of Brits wholly captured the essence of American Southern rock with an occasional twist of prog.

You could fool a fool or two in some weathered off-road juke joint by saying "Can't Get Enough," "Simple Man," "Ready for Love," "Shooting Star," "Bad Company" and of course, "Feel Like Makin' Love" were knocked out by a strongarm section of diehard Savannah rebs. Even though "Rock and Roll Fantasy" has a bit of disco swing considering the year it came out on 1979's Desolation Angels, Bad Company's tappity gloss-up over the music industry's alluring stranglehold over people is still pure bang on top of its sway. It feels like pure Americana, but check again. It's the Union Jack swinging behind Bad Company.

Bad Company's records may not always have gained mass critical acclaim beyond the 1974 self-titled album and Straight Shooter the following year. Push to shove, however, this is a band most consider one of the first authentic "supergroups." Together they've sold millions and have left a sizable cluster of well-loved ditties the fans are sure to love on their new Live at Wembley album and DVD.

While Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke failed to garnish much interest in their Bad Company resurrections minus Paul Rodgers, the 1999 official reunion of the group brought about hopes of a true comeback. Unfortunately, all that culminated in this get-together was The Original Bad Company Anthology which at least included a few new tracks. Worse, Boz Burrell died in 2006, which prompted Bad Company with three leftover original members in 2008 to once again hit the arena trail in his honor.

Live at Wembley is a Bad Company performance captured last year which stands up as one of the band's finest hours, three-fifths represented they may be. For the record, Bad Company is now rounded out by guitarist Howard Leese and bassist Lynn Sorensen. While the sold-out UK concertgoers are often reserved and often emphatic, the Wembley homecoming of Bad Company is a pretty humbling experience to behold. So much even Paul Rodgers has to ask his audience how they're doing, and it's not just a typical stage plug. There's a detectable sense of nervousness between Rodgers and the crowd. Bad Company is well in the pocket of their set through "Can't Get Enough," "Honey Child," "Run With the Pack," "Burnin' Sky." It's after their laidback cover of The Coasters' "Young Blood" where Rodgers checks his listeners for a pulse and they begin to respond. Granted, Rodgers does get Wembley to participate right out the gate during "Can't Get Enough," but it's obvious how much performing in his native land means to him.

You know what the people are expecting. They're no different than American beer bellies squeezing through the aisles for a freshening up of the suds before the hallowed party jams in Bad Company's set arrives. While there's a huge upswing in the Wembley crowd when "Feel Like Makin' Love," "Shooting Star," "Rock 'n Roll Fantasy," "Movin' On" and "Ready For Love" sieve out, Bad Company does keep the set well-engaged with "Gone Gone Gone," "Seagull" and "Simple Man." The latter two are perfectly translated with gorgeous acoustic intros and they remind people there's artistry beyond the straight-up whumping to Bad Company.

"Bad Company" live is easily the band's rally cry, because Wembley is full-on electric by the time Rodgers steps up to the piano and plunks down the first few notes. Whatever their walks of life, the Bad Company fans are united rebels in an unknown cause, simply by caterwauling "Bad Company's" chorus in tandem. Again, no different than their eastern counterparts. "Bad Company" is an instant insurrection and it should be considered a metal genesis tune along with "Burnin' Sky," "Simple Man" and "Ready For Love."

More superficially satisfying than hearing these nuggets scattered ad nauseum on classic rock stations, Live at Wembley is a professional and enthusiastic recreation of Bad Company's golden years. It may be disarming to some to see a couple of grayhairs peeling off tremolos in front of Marshall stacks, but show your respect, because Bad Company does likewise, for Boz during "Shooting Star" and most importantly, for their fans. This is a well-intended set for hit lovers and music heads. It's much more radioactive than Rodgers and The Firm and for many, it's Bad Company 'til they die...

Rating: ****


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