Night Ranger and Loverboy Concert — December 8, 2017 at Treasure Island Casino
The first time I saw Night Ranger in concert was at the peak of their career at the UW-Stout fieldhouse in Menomonie, Wisconsin in 1984: big guitar sound, big crowds, big hair! The venue was filled with screaming girls with their big 80s hair and I remember Night Ranger rocking the place. Thirty-three years later, Night Ranger along with fellow 80s hit machine Loverboy returned to the Midwest with a sold-out show Friday, December 8 at the Treasure Island Casino Event Center … and from the beginning to the end, it was a time machine back to some of the greatest hits of the 1980s!
First up: Night Ranger opened the show with their great uptempo number “Somehow, Someway” and kept the energy moving and music flowing for over 75 minutes. Original Night Ranger bandmates Jack Blades, Brad Gillis, Kelly Keagy haven’t lost their energy (or sex appeal based on the screaming 40+ year old women in the audience reliving their teenage years!) Not only did the band go through their hit parade with songs including “Sing Me Away” and “When You Close Your Eyes,” but they also tossed in a couple of Damn Yankees tunes (“Coming of Age” and “High Enough”) as well some Alice Cooper (“School’s Out”) and a bit of GNR (“Sweet Child of Mine”) as a nod to guitarist Keri Kelli’s time spent touring with Alice Cooper and Slash. The band also covered Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” (guitarist Brad Gillis toured with Ozzy back in 1982 after the death of Randy Rhoads.) Night Ranger closed their set out on a high with their three biggest hits: “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,” “Sister Christian” and my personal favorite “(You Can Still Rock) in America.” It was easy to forget these guys are all middle aged with the amount of action and energy they brought to the show … they sure looked like they were still having fun after touring 35 years!
After a short break, it was Loverboy’s time to take the stage, and they didn’t disappoint! Loverboy features original founding bandmates Doug Johnson on keys, guitarist Paul Dean, drummer Matt Frenette and lead singer Mike Reno, along with bassist Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve, who replaced original bass player Scott Smith who died in 2000 during a boating accident. From the beginning of the set, with just Johnson taking the stage with synth and harmonica to kick off “Notorious”, through a non-stop collection of singalong hits, Loverboy kept the crowd on their feet for their extended set. I have seen Loverboy six or seven times over the years, mostly during festivals and fairs, and it was a pleasure to see them pack a venue to capacity. Before going to the show, I watched some of their videos from the 1980s, and it is pretty jarring seeing how different all of these guys look after over 30 years … especially lead singer Mike Reno! The one thing though that has not changed in all that time is Reno’s voice; wow! All evening I was amazed at his ability to hit all those high notes in songs like “Take Me to the Top,” the ballad “This Could Be the Night” and their very first hit from 1980 “The Kid Is Hot Tonite” … that incredible range of his is still intact after all these years! Whereas Night Ranger strutted the stage much like they did during their glory days, Loverboy’s performance was a bit more restrained as far as action and movement (with the notable exception of an extended, energetic drum solo by Matt Frenette), but they more than made up for that with the quality of the music, and the obvious pure joy these guys get from performing! Again, as during, Night Ranger, the mostly older women in the audience appeared to be transported back in time as they screamed their heads off and even threw the occasional bra up on stage! Loverboy finished their main set with three of their biggest 1980s hits: “Hot Girls in Love,” “Turn Me Loose” and the classic rock staple “Working for the Weekend” and then closed the show during the encore with an extended version of “Lovin’ Every Minute of It.”
For fans of two of the biggest hair bands of the early 1980s, Friday’s Night Ranger and Loverboy concert proved these guys can still rock in America … and I was lovin’ every minute of it!