CLASS ACT DELIVERS A GREAT SHOW
Show Date: July 26, 2014
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Venue: Rockpile East
Band Website: www.tomkeifer.com
It had been a very long time since I last saw Tom Keifer play live — almost twenty five years to be exact, dating back to Cinderella‘s Long Cold Winter Tour. Times have certainly changed, with almost a quarter of a decade passing by and people from the ’80s metal generation getting a lot older.
I had never thought of Keifer as a heartthrob in my younger years, but he apparently was viewed as such and still is to this day — accordingly, I was surprised when a friend of mine warned me that his Toronto show would be “packed with tonnes of cougars lmao”. My friend’s assessment was spot on, given that by the time I got to the Rockpile East the place was already packed around the entire stage area and there were quite a few women that could fit the “cougar” description. I will admit that Keifer looked impressive when he eventually got on stage, and judging by the reaction of some of the ladies fawning over him — and with one overzealous woman in particular even grabbing onto his leg early on in the show — the man still has “it”.
I am getting ahead of myself, so let’s start where the show began for me. Due to family obligations, I only ended up arriving at the venue around 10:00 pm, meaning that I unfortunately missed Revolution — the only opening act that was performing original material out of the three scheduled to play. I had seen Revolution play twice last year and had been quite impressed with them and I even interviewed them for Sleaze Roxx last summer (click here to read the interview) and therefore was disappointed to miss them this time around. Subsequently, watching a YouTube video of the band playing a new powerful heavy riff based song called “The Hustle” from that night, with guitarist Jamie Bekyarovich surprisingly handling the lead vocals, just made missing their set even more disappointing. By the time I arrived Motley 2.0 had just started their set and as you likely guessed, are a tribute act playing Motley Crue songs. The band sounded good and did a great job of warming up the crowd for Keifer. By the time Motley 2.0 wrapped up I was able to, unexpectedly, get within one row of the stage with a little maneuvering despite both arriving late and the packed crowd — this was probably the second biggest crowd that I had seen at the Rockpile East since opening night back in October 2013.
With what seems to be a typical pattern for headliners at the Rockpile East, Keifer‘s stage setup was a no frills affair with no backdrop of any kind, the drum kit between the amps, and a dark black looking stage with a few lights. The band members eventually casually walked to the stage with Keifer himself strolling on last. As mentioned previously, Keifer looked good with his rock star appearance that included almost knee high boots, tons of necklaces, and what seemed like a face that had stood the test of time quite well. Keifer and his band then kicked off with a low key but powerful rendition of the classic title track from Cinderella‘s debut album ‘Night Songs’. What a great song — there is not much more that can be said for that one. Keifer sounded incredible and you would never know that he has previously had multiple surgeries to remove nodules from his vocal chords and even had to relearn how to sing. A lot of credit has to go to the man for persevering through all that.
Although Keifer‘s new solo album ‘The Way Life Goes’ has been very well received by Sleaze Roxx and its readers — ranking #2 in the year end Reader’s Poll and #5 in the Sleaze Roxx 10 of 2013 — I for one never picked it up because I felt that the snippets I heard had a country feel to them. The day before the show however, I listened once to each solo track that Keifer had been playing at prior shows just to get familiar with the songs — I was surprised how much I enjoyed them on a first listen. Hearing Keifer play his new songs live confirmed what most people in the audience likely already knew, that ‘The Way Life Goes’ is a solid record full of different quality songs. After “Night Songs”, Keifer and his band launched into “It’s Not Enough”, an upbeat rocker from his new solo record, which could have easily found its way onto the stellar albums ‘Night Songs’ and ‘Long Cold Winter’ had it been written earlier on. By this time, Keifer was still pretty stationery and perhaps easing himself into the show. The one song from the solo album that I did not like during the concert was the next one, “A Different Light”. Luckily, from there on out, it seemed that Keifer turned up the energy with blistering renditions of “Somebody Save Me” and the first Cinderella song I ever heard many years ago — the classic “Shake Me”.
At one point, Keifer opined that it had been a long time since he last played in Toronto — dating it back to 2006. It had been awhile but not ‘that’ long, because my subsequent internet “research” suggests that Cinderella performed here while opening for the Scorpions back in 2010. Whatever the case, it was an honest mistake and judging from the large crowd at the Rockpile East, Toronto would welcome another visit from Keifer sooner than later — or even in another four years.
If you’ve read some of my past reviews you will know that I am not a big fan of ballads, but the four and a half slower songs that Keifer played next were really good. Sitting on a stool, the frontman asked the crowd to sing along with him as he played a bit of “Heartbreak Station” before launching into the “Flower Song”. He then introduced his wife Savannah while indicating that she had co-wrote most, if not all, of the songs on his long awaited solo record. Together the duo then sang nice renditions of “Ask Me Yesterday” and the Cinderella hit “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”. The mellower part of the show ended with an awesome rendition of “Nobody’s Fool”, which seemed to have the entire crowd singing along. From then on Keifer seemed to really get into the show, covering all of the stage while the band played what seemed to be heavier renditions of “Solid Ground” and “Cold Day In Hell” than what can be found on ‘The Way Life Goes’. The main set ended with crowd pleasing renditions of the Cinderella classics “Coming Home” and “Shelter Me”.
Before you knew it, Keifer and his group were back for encores with the familiar opening organ sound of The Beatles‘ classic “With A Little Help From My Friends”. Keifer confirmed to the crowd that we were all friends, which was met with an enthusiastic response, before indicating that “we have been friends for about 30 years” as he dedicated the song to the audience. I have never been much of a fan of that particular song, but Keifer‘s version was really good! Keifer and company closed out the evening with the only hit that seemed to be missing during the show from the Cinderella catalog — the catchy and upbeat “Gypsy Road”.
What I really liked about Tom Keifer was that even though he knew he was the star of the show, and that everyone in the audience pretty much came just to see him (even his band members seemed to be fully aware of this), he was able to use that to his advantage without coming across as cocky. He understood that the crowd was ready to cheer on his every word, so from time to time he asked the audience to make some noise, or sing along, or clap their hands, but it never came across like he was being full of himself — if anything, the man was very humble. At the end of the show, and after taking the time to present his entire band, Keifer thanked the crowd by stating “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping these songs alive for the last 30 years” and “God bless you and I hope that all your dreams come true because you sure as hell have made mine come true.”
Tom Keifer was a class act from start to finish during his show at the Rockpile East and he earned my respect (not that he needed it) in a big way. There is no need to say that I will be picking up his solo disc ‘The Way It Goes’ in the very near future.
Tom Keifer’s setlist:
01. Night Songs
02. It’s Not Enough
03. A Different Light
04. Somebody Save Me
05. Shake Me
06. Heartbreak Station
07. The Flower Song
08. Ask Me Yesterday
09. Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)
10. Nobody’s Fool
11. Solid Ground
12. Cold Day In Hell
13. Coming Home
14. Shelter Me
15. With A Little Help From My Friends (The Beatles cover)
16. Gypsy Road