So, I just turned 43 years old the other day. Usually the week of my birthday I go nuts and hit three to four shows in the Philly area. But this year I scaled it back a bit due to work, and the fact that I’m not so young anymore. The gig I was truly excited for though was the double whammy of CINDERELLA frontman TOM KEIFER with fellow Philly band MACH22 as direct support at The Block Entertainment Center. This was a homecoming for Tom and the turnout was high. What made things even cooler was that a lot of people were in the building for the support act. That speaks volumes about how good an area band is. There’s nothing that disappoints me more than seeing guys up there singing and playing their hearts out to an empty room.
Thanks to traffic I got there a few minutes late (something I always hate) and MACH22 was already onstage. The band tore through a ten-song set and the crowd ate it up. Lamont Caldwell is an unbelievable frontman and their recorded work doesn’t do his voice justice.Several times when I was walking around trying to find the best possible vantage point I was stopped dead in my tracks saying, “WHOA!” as he was belting it out. Formerly with THE ROOTS he also sang backup and played saxophone for JAY-Z on tour. Sebastian LaBar is an incredible guitarist with riffs and solos for days, while drummer Damian MonteCarlo and bassist Chris Seeland are a booming rhythm section that steers the ship. I knew these guys were good. I didn’t know they were THAT good!
Highlights included “Go Ahead”, “Like My Chances”, “Radio”, and “Just a Man” among others. The group is a well-oiled machine, with a veteran stage presence and a high-energy show that had everybody moving and grooving. You can bet your sweet ass that if they’re playing near me again I WILL be there. I urge all of you to do the same! After their set I met up with Dan Williams Photography to chat while the crew set up for the headliner, TOM KEIFER. Touring behind his solo record The Way Life Goes, the band has been out on the road almost nonstop for the better part of three years. But as the man himself told me recently by phone, “We just don’t wanna go home!”
Just after 9 p.m. the show began. Starting off with “Once Around the Ride” from CINDERELLA’S 1986 debut Night Songs the band was in full swing and all the ladies in the packed venue were shaking it like there was no tomorrow. Next up was a solo tune “It’s Not Enough” which many people around me were very familiar with. Tom then paused briefly to address the crowd who roared back at him every time he spoke. He’s a hometown boy made good and he’s never forgotten where he came from, which is WHY the place was packed on a rainy Thursday night. “Heartbreak Station” sounded just as pained and evocative as it did in 1990, perhaps even more so, and he followed this with a pair of new ones in “The Flower Song” and “A Different Light”, two of my favorites off the album.
CINDERELLA classics “Somebody Save Me” and “Shake Me” got an already fired up crowd even more so before Tom brought his gorgeous wife Savannah out onstage to sing “Ask Me Yesterday” with him. This is an absolutely beautiful number from The Way Life Goes and live it was awesome. Savannah stayed out front for the acoustic portion of “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” before taking over the piano when Tom lit into the electric guitar solo with the band smokin’ behind him. Oh, and about the band…total seasoned pros who are tight as all get-out. Not only that, everyone looked like they were having a blast up there, which is important, because the crowd feeds off of that and vice versa.
This rolled right into “Nobody’s Fool” my introduction to CINDERELLA and suddenly there I was, a 13-year old glued to MTV again in 1986. I couldn’t stop grinning and I was having THE best time basking in the glory of rock and roll. One more newer tune was next with “Solid Ground”, another one I love, and then it was time for my all-time favorite song from the man…”Coming Home.” A fitting number given the surroundings, but the memories I have attached to this one are so special, and hearing it live always makes me well up, especially the way Tom sings it now. Closing out the regular set was “Shelter Me” and everybody, and I do mean EVERYBODY was dancing and singing top of their lungs!!
Before I sign off, a word about the staff at Harrah’s and The Block: very nice, courteous, and helpful people, each and every one of them I interacted with. They only added to an already great concert experience and rest assured I will be there many times in future.When all was said and done I left the venue with the biggest smile on my face. TOM KEIFER has been one of my favorite songwriters for three decades now, and this was my fifth time seeing him in action. The man gives his all up there and he and his bandmates look like they’re having the time of their lives on that stage. I cannot stress enough how badly you need to go see this show if and when it rolls through your town. GO! You’ll thank me, I promise you.
LIVE WORDS: THE MAESTRO
LIVE IMAGES: DAN WILLIAMS PHOTOGRAPHY