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Concert Review: Tom Keifer, John Corabi deliver at The District

June 19, 2013

John Corabi performs at The District in downtown Rockford Thursday, June 13. (Photo by Todd Reicher)

By John Parks

Tom Keifer of Cinderella brought his solo tour supporting his new album, The Way Life Goes, to The District (205 W. State St.) Rockford to a very excited Thursday night, June 13, crowd.

Former Mötley Crüe (and The Scream) vocalist John Corabi warmed the crowd up with a very well-received acoustic set. He made it a point to connect with the audience in a “storytellers” style, and played a bit of material from all of the bands he’s fronted over the years.

Corabi’s set was tailored perfectly to be a natural for promoting his latest “Unplugged” album, and he played many of the songs from it, including “I Never Loved Her Anyway” and “If I Never Get To Say Goodbye,” which were delivered with the type of emotional honesty he’s made a career of.

John also found time during his fairly short set for a few amazing cuts from his well-publicized stint as singer of Mötley Crüe. His whole show was start to finish amazing, but the Crüe tracks “Hooligan’s Holiday,” “Loveshine” and “Misunderstood” went over very well with the crowd here in Rockford. The show was originally booked without anyone knowing about the openers, so finding out he was playing the show here was just an added bonus to an already solid booking.

John Corabi kept telling us he was just warming us up for Tom Keifer to blow us away, but to be honest, he was every bit as strong and engaging as the Cinderella frontman. That’s a tremendous endorsement, since Keifer brought an energy seldom seen in the 815 area code — screaming, sweating and soulfully giving the paying audience everything they wanted over the course of the evening.

District’s sound, clean look and easygoing staff generally contribute to a good event every time I find myself there, and its intimate stage makes it an easy sell any time a national act comes through. It is not uncommon to see Cinderella booked in much bigger venues, so the opportunity to see their frontman on this type of tour has led to a successful run of dates.

Keifer and his band opened up their set with a rocking version of the Cinderella song “Sick For The Cure,” followed by a couple of tracks from his solo album, before going into his own acoustic, storyteller segment.

Keifer explained the origins of the Cinderella classic “Shake Me” before going into a totally uncharted, delta blues reworking of the song, setting the mood for the dual personalities that describe both his live show and the new album itself.

As much as I appreciate the hard rock side of Tom Keifer, I was a little surprised at how great the softer acoustic material translated. New songs like “Ask Me Yesterday” and “The Flower Song” had an amazing Rolling Stones-ish quality that completely played to Tom’s vocal strengths.

After having heard “Don’t Know What You Got (Til It’s Gone)” on rock radio to the point of nausea, it’s worth mentioning that it was probably the best moment of the show. It was one of several times Tom brought his talented wife Savannah Snow Keifer up on stage, and she brought something to the show every time she got on the mic.

Tom’s band was composed of seasoned pros, but they did seem very tired on this evening, with the exception of lead guitarist Tony Higbee, who was on fire. The exhaustion was somewhat understandable, since this particular leg of the tour was nearing its conclusion the next night in Chicago, but it did not affect Higbee or Keifer in the slightest.

I have seen so many performers show up, perform an adequate show and leave town with the check, but Tom Keifer absolutely poured every ounce of soul and effort into each moment he was on stage at District. Yes, it’s his job, but unless you were there, you might not understand just how far he went to deliver, interacting with the audience, singing his guts out and playing inspired guitar from beginning to end.

The end of the set was heavy on Cinderella favorites, ensuring every single person went home happy. I would venture to say it was successful in that pursuit, as Keifer and band trotted out hits like “Coming Home” and “Shelter Me,” the latter sparking a smile on the face of almost everyone, including his keyboard player, Paul Taylor (formerly of Winger).

After a very short break, the band came back onstage for Tom to sing a blistering cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” and close things out quite loudly with the Cinderella hit, “Gypsy Road.”

For all of the negative things making news in Rockford, for all of the naysayers complaining, there’s nothing to do on a weeknight, this show was yet another piece of contrasting evidence that there is plenty of life left in the better spots of the downtown area. Get out and enjoy it.

From the June 19-25, 2013, issue

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