American hard rock legends, Night Ranger came back to Japan as a part of the band’s 40th anniversary celebrations with their 12th studio album, ATBPO (which stands for And The Band Played On), released in 2021.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I headed to Hitomi Memorial Hall with anticipation and nervousness. It had been 33 months since I photographed the last concert due to pandemic. The long wait was finally over! I was so excited. But at the same time, I was not sure my photo pass was prepared. No problem. I got it!
The beautiful and clean venue with capacity of 2,000 is in the grounds of Showa Women’s University. The show was almost sold out as expected and the merch stand was very busy. Before the show started, we could see a huge band logo with “40th Anniversary” text on the back screen of the stage. It was beautifully lit and looked very cool. The venue was packed with diehard Night Ranger fans. I saw some of them were wearing tour T-shirts featuring their first album Dawn Patrol (1982), the second Midnight Madness (1983) and the third 7 Wishes (1985). As you might know, Night Ranger first took on in Japan and then became explosively popular in the United States and around the world. Therefore, Japan must be the special country for them.
The hall went black at 5:00 pm and the Tokyo crowd immediately went crazy. The band started their set with the rock anthem “(You Can Still) Rock in America”, so we were hooked from the first tune. The band members were basically dressed in black, but each member put on different designed clothes and had his own characteristics.
They are a five-piece band which have 2 vocalists (Jack Blades and Kelly Keagy) and 2 different types of energetic guitarists (Brad Gillis and Keri Kelli). Surprisingly, rhythm section which is to say, bassist and drummer take the main vocals. And of course, beautiful tone of keyboards which Eric Levy plays are essential for Night Ranger’s melodic tunes.
The setlist was comprised of all the fan favorites including 3 cover songs from Damn Yankees which was Jack Blades’ side project. They played only one new song “Bring It All Home to Me” from their latest studio album, ATBPO which was great. I wanted to listen more songs from their new album. But I guess they focused on entertaining the Japanese audience because we were severely restricted from enjoying concerts.
Singer and bassist Jack Blades was always smiling nicely and often talked to the audience. According to Blades, that night was the 78th show in Japan!
That made sense to me that their performance was so perfect and filled with showmanship. Can you continue to play the powerful shows for 40 years? My answer is unfortunately no. I should follow their example and respect their great musicianship. Three frontmen, Blades, Gillis, and Kelli ran around the stage during the show except during some acoustic songs. I often see veteran singers can’t sing their old hit song on original key, but Blades did it perfectly with his rich voice, even “High Enough”. This song reminds me of my younger days and touched my heart. Also, Keagy sometime took lead vocals which was amazing too. Both lead guitarists, Gillis and Kelli are technically accomplished shredders. Their playing style are different though. We can simply enjoy steady rock sound because their division of roles are well composed.
My favorite part of the night was the latter part of the song “Night Ranger”. Everyone in the band came around the drum kit and played a teamed drum solo. Kelli even put on a wolf mask! It was fun to watch. I wanted to photograph them. But first 3 songs I was allowed to shoot were already over. It’s a pity I couldn’t capture that. Maybe next time!
No one wanted this to end but “Sister Christian” brought the set to close.
Their charismatic and energetic performance attracted the audience through the night.
Night Ranger live was simply filled with their love for rock music and I am deeply grateful to be able to experience that. We were treated to a phenomenal rock show that evening and I was happy to be given their positive vibes. I still can hear the whole crowd singing “Rocking, rocking, rocking!”.
1. (You Can Still) Rock in America
2. Four in the Morning
3. Sing Me Away
4. Coming of Age (Damn Yankees cover)
5. Bring It All Home to Me
6. Sentimental Street
7. High Road
8. Rumours in the Air
9. The Secret of My Success
10. Night Ranger
11. Come Again (Damn Yankees cover)
12. High Enough (Damn Yankees cover)
13. Reason to Be
15. When You Close Your Eyes
16. Don’t Tell Me You Love Me
17. Sister Christian
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Aki is a published and award-winning concert photographer based in Tokyo, Japan. Her musical preferences are deeply rooted in the 70s. However, she also loves to see and capture new bands. You can find her work in magazines, newspapers, online and galleries.