Paul Rodgers (Free Spirit) - DDCONCERTPHOTOGRAPHY

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Paul Rodgers (Free Spirit Tour) | City Hall | Newcastle | 7 May 2017

Reviewed for The Northern Echo

Middlesbrough-born Paul Rodgers may now be a fully-fledged Canadian citizen, but when he walked on stage at Newcastle City Hall last Sunday it was to a hero’s return. And why not? Rodgers is rock royalty with credentials that include fronting Free, Bad Company, the Firm and Queen.

Widely acknowledged as the best voice in rock, this was a quick return to the area for Rodgers who played with Bad Company at the Arena only last October. This time, on his Free Spirit tour, the evening was a celebration of the music of Free, the legendary blues rockers whom Rodgers formed with Paul Kossoff, Simon Kirke and Andy Fraser fifty years ago.

Backed by Deborah Bonham’s band – Bonham opened the show performing with guitarist Doug Boyle – Rodgers set the bar high right from the opening number “Little Bit Of Love”. “Ride On A Pony” and “Travelling Man” followed before the gorgeous ballad “Be My Friend”.

The quality of songs and performance never dipped and included “Soon I Will Be Gone”, “Songs of Yesterday”, “Travellin’ In Style”, “Come Together In The Morning” and “My Brother Jake”. Many of the showstoppers were held back for the second half of the set with “The Stealer”, “Fire and Water”, “The Hunter”, and “Mr Big” which featured stupendous bass work by Ian Rowley. Guitarist Pete Bullick also shone throughout the show.

An encore of “Wishing Well”, followed by the iconic “All Right Now”, had the entire stalls and balcony on their feet and singing along much to Rodgers’ delight. The band returned to the stage for a second time with “Walk In My Shadow” before bringing the set to climax with a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues”.

Rodgers’ voice remains a thing of beauty – powerful and soulful and still, at 67, fully capable of doing justice to these great songs. It was an emotional homecoming for him, his beaming smile revealing his pleasure at being back at the venue which was the scene of so many triumphant shows with Free. “I’m sure Koss is looking down and enjoying this”, he said about his much missed friend.

As someone who saw his first show at the City Hall over forty years ago, I can say without a shadow of doubt that this was one of the finest performances I have seen there.


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