Paul Rodgers makes a welcome return to his old stomping ground the North East of England.
Today the Geordies are in a jovial mood as Newcastle United football team win the Championship having recently secured promotion to the Premier League. The legendary voice of Free Paul Rodgers couldn’t have picked a better day to be back in the toon, with fans and revellers having been celebrating in the local pubs and bars all day long; the after party moves early in the evening towards the neighbouring Newcastle City Hall.
The North East of England has always been a stronghold for Free, even their much celebrated live album featured recordings from the Locarno club a few miles down the road in nearby Sunderland.
A northern lad himself, this show in the city is the closest Paul Rodgers will get to his home town of Middlesbrough on this run. Tonight’s concert is just over six months after Paul’s last appearance in the region with Bad Company at the Metro Radio Arena. However, with this current tour the focus shifts towards Free, and a rare full set of the legendary group’s material.
The Free Spirit tour was born as a result of a charity gig to support Willows Animal Sanctuary and Assisted Therapy Unit, to which both Paul and his wife Cynthia along with special guest Deborah Bonham and guitarist Pete Bullick are all Patrons of.
Paul Rodgers takes to the stage to a packed out room of loyal fans and breaks into a triple whammy of “Little Bit of Love”, “Ride on a Pony” and “Travelling Man” before a very soulful rendition “Be My Friend”.
With several big numbers featuring early on mid-set Rodgers digs into the deep cuts and ballads which Free rarely performed live. Picking up his acoustic guitar Paul slows down the proceedings as he brakes into the likes of “Soon I Will Be Gone”, “Travellin’ In Style” and “Love You So”.
Just like a fine wine Paul Rodgers voice just keeps on getting better with age. Tonight there’s no holding him back one bit, he makes his vocal performance look effortless; Rodgers is truly one of the great rock frontmen of our time.
Throughout his incredible career, Paul Rodgers has graced the City Hall stage on numerous occasions. ‘Who was here back in the Free days?’ he asks the audience, to which many cheers respond, ‘Koss will be looking down’ he replies.
Despite having only performed a few times together previously, Rodgers band for this tour gel together seamlessly. These seasoned professionals humbly perform the music of Free with pride. Pete Bullick grapples with the guitar solos of the late great Paul Kossoff all night long and does them justice, whilst Rich Newman on drums and Ian Rowley on bass maintain a tight rhythm section throughout. Gerard Louis “G” adds a funky/soulful injection on keyboards and rounds out the lineup.
The second half of the show sees Paul Rodgers and company transport the Tyneside audience to classic rock heaven, with back to back Free hits and of course the whole room are up on their feet. From the groove-heavy “Mr Big”, during which Rowley receives adulation as he takes on Andy Fraser’s much-celebrated bass solo, through to the incredibly funky “Woman” and a spellbinding rendition of “Fire and Water”. Song after song is greeted with riotous cheers and ovation.
Rodgers who is beaming throughout quips ‘It’s wonderful to play all of this material again, it’s been too long’ and the Geordie audience who are lapping it up are in agreement.
The scorching guitar riffs of Pete Bullick signal the start of Free’s take on the Albert King classic “The Hunter”, which results in a mass singalong from the Newcastle City Hall, and leaves the audience wanting more.
The fans are rewarded with not one, but two encores the first of which culminating in “All Right Now”, during which images and footage of Free are projected onto the backdrop at the rear of the stage, and the crowd are almost loud enough to blow the roof off Newcastle’s much-loved concert hall. Paul Rodgers 90 minute set is brought to a close with a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues”.
It may well be over forty years since the Free called it a day back in 1973, but the fan’s present at the Newcastle City Hall this evening would most certainly agree that the Spirit of Free is alive and well.
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Event Date: 07-MAY-2017