Night Ranger -- Medina, MN -- August 21, 1998
I'll warn you right now, this review is rather long...but it just couldn't be helped. HeeHee. I have been a huge fan of Night Ranger since the age of 13 when I first heard "Midnight Madness" at my friend's house. Throught the years Night Ranger has been the one musical group that has consistently remained one of my favorite bands. Others have come and gone, yet NIght Ranger has always remained. Growing-up I wasn't fortunate enough to get to see them play live, not that I didn't want too. I lived in a small town with no car, enough said. So you can well imagine just how pumped I was for this day to arrive. Sure I have seen a few Damn Yankees shows, and I got to see one show from the Mojo tour, but as thrilling and mind-blowing as they were, it just wasn't the same. I had dreamed of seeing NR as a whole, because I am a firm believer in that all five of the guys together make the band what they are.
My friend Cathy decided that it would be in our best interest if she drove, her far-sighted vision seeing that I might be a wee bit excited after the concert to do any sort of driving, let alone safe driving. We got to the hall just a little after the doors opened at 7:00pm. I had never been to this Medina Entertainment Center before, but I have heard nothing but good things about it. It seemed to be a really nice, new, clean place. The stage is of a decent size and only two feet high, with no barricades. As there were not restrictions on bringing cameras and taking pictures I had brought mine. I situated myself front and center. I saw that I wouldn't have the greatest view of Kelly behind his drums, but I figured he would be coming out from behind them to sing either "Sister Christian" or one of the other songs he sings. Since it would be a good hour before the opening band came on I decided to occupy myself in meeting some other die-hard Night Ranger fans. I met the most awesome folks, although noone from RITA. Monique has been following the band for almost the entire tour, missing only one or two dates. Wow, do I envy her. She said that she's never done anything like this before, and likely never too do again, but it was worth everything. I bet! There was even a couple there who said that they meet and got together through thier mutual interest in Night Ranger.
The opening band, Conditioned Response was a nice local 80's hair band. To me they sounded a little like Queensryche, and were pretty good. At any other concert I might have been a bit more enthused about them, but as I had been waiting over half my life to see Night Ranger I was less than interested. Sorry. They were on stage for about an hour and a half.
Finally, after the opening band's gear was taken down it was time for Night Ranger to come on stage. The lights dimmed and everyone's vocal cords erupted into a multitude of screams and chants. NR came out from behind this black curtain and then they were on stage...this was the point I completely lost whatever reasoning I had left. It was actually happening. I was seeing NR! The set list was the same as what those of you who have been lucky enough to get to a show this year heard, with songs from "Dawn Patrol", "Midnight Madness", "7 Wishes", two songs from "Neverland" and "Sign of the Times" off of Seven. But there was an added bonus: "Let Him Run" was added as part of their encore, played right before "Sister Christian" and "Rock in America". It rocked! This is a song that as a younster I really didn't like at all, but as I have matured it has become one of those songs that I really look forward to on my CD. I wouldn't have minded hearing a few songs off of "Man in Motion" or "Big LIfe", but that's the breaks. I guess I was happy to be there hearing whatever they choose to play. Hell, I think if they decided to play nursery rhymes, I would have been just as ecstatic.
As you know, NR had been off for three weeks before this particular show. They must have had ample time to rest up because they put forth more energy into each and every songs than any band I have seen recently. Every song was musically tight and in your face. The bantering that went on between the guys was hilarious...and showed that they were really truly enjoying themselves.
There was an extremely funny part of the show. Jack was giving his speal about only doing "the old stuff" because that's all we really wanted to hear. Immediately you could hear the crowd protesting. Laughing, Jack quipped, "Hell, I bet we don't even have to play our own songs...". Next thing we knew Brad was playing the first few chords of "Cat Scratch Fever." Jack looked over at Bra, almost bewildered-like, as Kelly, Jeff and Fitz started in on it. Jack laughed and started jamming. He stepped up to the mic as if to start singing. By this point eveyone in the joint was grooving and all phyched to hear the song. Jack took a deep breath as if to bellow out the first note, but instead said " No, no wait...we can't do this without the MotorCity Madman!". Jack then attempted to introduce the next song as he intended to do before he was interupted. This time it was the first stains of "Iron Man" that interupted him. This little game of theirs went on for a bit, each time we were all thinking...ohmigod they really are going to play it! I tell ya it was funny, which I'm sure it loses a bit in my retelling.
Another memorable moment was the introduction to "Goodbye". Jack was giving his speal about how he and his "good friend Jeff" wrote this song many years ago in ten minutes. Jeff in the meantime was paying absoultley no attention to Jack, as he had stopped to sign this guy's album cover. Jack turns to look over at Jeff and sees what he's doing. "Uh...Jeff...what the hell are you doing?" in this mock peturbed voice. "I'm trying to introduce you here! You can sign autographs later", his voice dripping with sarcasm. Jeff, playing along shrugged and muttered into the mic, "Hey, man you were talking". Jack turned back to him, laughed, and said quiet straight-face. "No more talking into the microphone for you".
One thing that dawned on me while watching the show. These guys didn't make this album to sell millions of records, or to please any record company, and they sure as heck didn't go out on tour and play each night for anyone, really, They were out there for themselves...playing for themselves, and enjoying it. A quote from one of my favorite books explains best what I am trying to say:
"Music that transcended itself and became art was like a merry-go round. A merry-go-round that you didn't get to ride - musicians were the riders - but rather that turned around you. It pulled you in the center Of it. Once you were inside you forgot where it began and where it ended but you didn't care and you never got bored. You never got bored because the chorus or the theme kept coming back again and again like a merry-go-round whose horses were freshly painted every time they passed." Red Eath, White Earth by Will Weaver
And hey, if I can go along for the ride, that's enough for me.
After the show Cath and went outside with Monique to see if I could get my album cover signed. But what I really wanted was to meet Jack. (I had meet Kelly and Brad a few years ago during the Mojo tour, and I was completely and utterly floored). When I had gone to see Damn Yankees, I had always just missed Jack by minutes. The main reason why I wanted to meet him is because I give him total credit for my interest and passion I have for music and I simply wanted to tell him that. It was one of his songs that he wrote that first got me into Night Ranger which lead to my all around appreciation for music. And while I will admit that Kelly has the better singing voice and that Jack is not the best bass player in the world, I will say that he's the closes thing I have to a hero. Yes, I admire Fitz, Brad, Kelly an Jeff just as much as I do Jack, but yet it is different. It's so hard to explain.
Brad and Jeff were the first to come out and walk to thier hotel. They were walking fast and really didn't look like they wanted to be bothered, and I respected that. Soon after that Kelly and Jack came out, though I had to be told by Cathy. They were being followed by these big-burly-type men (at least they looked big and burly to me) who were seeking autographs. I walked up behind them and stood there quietly waiting my turn, wondering what I would say. It wasn't long before I was next. Then one of the road crew shut the van's door. I was so close. My face must have looked really sad and pathetic because when I turned and looked at Cathy, her face fell. I remember looking at the ground and just wanting to walk far away. I didn't get far. The next instant several things happened all at once. I heard a noise behind me and Cathy pushed me back towards the van. I turned and there was Jack. Everything I wanted to say flew right out of my brain at that moment. Usually I am not such a brainless twit when it comes to talking to people I admire but this time I'm afraid I was. haha. I couldn't think, but I somehow squeezed out a "hi" which sounded very high pitched to me. Jack told me that he had seen me up in the front. I merely nodded yes, grinning stupidly I'm sure. Cathy had my camera out and Jack had noticed, so I ended up with a picture with him. All I can think is how amazing...and how nice!
So ended my first Night Ranger concert, and all I can say is that it lived up to every possible expectation I ever had. I got my pictures developed the next day, and for the most part, my crappy camera served me well.
- Julie Porter