Released: December 2016
Night Ranger present a proper live album of an American performance for the first time in what feels like forever.
As with so many hard rock bands of the 1980’s, they receive a continual heroes’ welcome in Japan, which effectively means most of their albums were recorded there. Chicago is a rock town if there ever was one, however, and a worthy choice for Night Ranger.
Whenever time a band puts out a live album, the most important question a fan needs to ask will be: “Is this necessary?”
Too often, live albums feel like lazy cash grabs or a means to stall fans while the band avoids heading back to the studio to record new material. There are exceptions to this rule, however, such as special performances (entire albums played for one night only), or in this case, a long-awaited performance that truly captures the length and breadth of a band’s catalogue, and finally, a warm reception in their home country.
You know you’ve had a storied career when, out of necessity, your live album has to be a double-disc set.
And even then, you know many fans’ personal favorite tracks will be left out. Eighteen songs, not including an intro, may not quite reach the Rush-level of musical catalog, but it’s an impressive feat for a band a band whose commercial success is largely remembered as phenomenon of the 1980’s.
The irony being, as is the case with so many bands of that era, Night Ranger have been active and producing quality music for the past few decades. And on a live album that has virtually no weak points, the fact that the new material sounds as strong as any of the classics (and in some cases, stronger) is a testament to the consistency of the band.
So how does a band over 35-years-old sound live? Fucking amazing.
And I’m saying this as a listener who was never a big fan of Night Ranger’s (sometimes overly-commercial) brand of melodic hard rock. But there is no denying the quality of musicianship in this performance. Perhaps most impressive of all is the fullness of the vocals.
Night Ranger is very much a band whose songs are built around quality vocal-melodies and harmonies; and every member manages to present an impressive display of singing from opening track to final encore.
And the singing is not so clean as to make one doubt if these are pre-recorded backing tracks. Rather, it has the raw edge of a live performance while still retaining the musicality and performance you only get from the caliber of such experienced musicians.
What is also worth noting is how well the band balances the different eras of its musical catalogue in this performance. They manage to fluidly transition between more recent tunes and classics, including a very-commercial but fun to hear again “The Secret of My Success” without getting too bogged down in either the obvious classic tunes or bludgeoning listeners with brand new songs — an error some bands make in an overly-zealous effort to convince fans of the validity of the most recent releases.
Night Ranger make a point of performing a new song, “Night and Day,” which had not previously been performed live, while still making sure everyone gets to hear “Eddie’s Comin’ Out Tonight,” or the ‘would-cause-a-riot-if-left-out-of-the-setlist’ mandatory “Sister Christian.”
Live albums work best as recordings that capture special performances singular moments of significance for bands. 35 Years and a Night in Chicago is such a performance, a gift to the fans that says this is a band who retains everything it once was, despite the ravages of time.
Unfortunately, too many of the rock and metal heroes of the Golden Age have succumbed to those ravages. Some hold out, still, in defiance. This album captures such a moment, providing a performance that is timeless yet timely, and something any Night Ranger fan should truly enjoy.