It was billed as a one-off show. The once bold and mighty classic rock monster known as Bad Company, with all original members on board, with the exception of their late great bassist Boz Burrell, would rise again for one very special evening. It was a date of crazy eights (8-8-08), in the sweltering heat of Hollywood, Florida, that the Seminole Hard Rock stage would never forget.
Singer Paul Rodgers, known in music circles as simply “The Voice,” is a relentless performer. When he is not on a major world tour as the voice of legendary rockers Queen, he is laying down epic shows with his solo band, playing music from every facet of his lengthy career. Drummer Simon Kirke has not played with Rodgers since 2002, and guitarist Mick Ralphs has not been beside his original singer since 1999, when he announced his retirement from touring. Paul Rodgers Band guitarist Howard Leese, a 23-year member of Heart, and bassist Lynn Sorensen would join the Bad Company lineup on this hot August night to give the band a larger than life sound that chilled the sold out crowd.
Guitarist Howard Leese has been Paul Rodgers guitarist, musical director, and all around “right-hand man” for well over a decade now. The expertise and overall music business savvy of this duo is unsurpassed on the scene today. So when it came time for Rodgers to make this original lineup reunion happen, it was no shock to hear that Leese would have a hand in the developments. The addition of Sorensen on bass was also a choice that would be considered a “no brainer,” being that he has been plucking out bass lines in Rodgers solo act for nearly a decade. These two brilliant musicians would help bring the musical beast known as Bad Company back to life for what was billed as one more show. But, as you will find out from the conversation I had with Leese the day after this monumental gig, there may be a lot more in store for Bad Company in the future.
PHONE CONVERSATION WITH HOWARD LEESE – 8/09/08
Dr. Music: Hey Howard!
Howard Leese: “Hey Scott! How are you, man?”
DM: Alright. Doing real good. Now, you did the Bad Company show?! I didn’t know that!
HL: “Yep. It was cool, man. We flew out on Tuesday, we rehearsed Wednesday and Thursday. It was really a treat to see those guys get back together, you know, because they’re like brothers. In a way, they’ve been through a lot together, so, it was cool to see their interaction.”
DM: It had to be strange without Boz (Burrell).
HL: “Yeah, it was. They discussed it. You could see them talking about it and stuff. He was sorely missed. Me and Lynn filled in.”
DM: Yeah! So how did you work that?
HL: “It was neat, man! It was cool! We actually did a few tunes that Bad Company never ever played live, like ‘Sweet Li’l Sister’ we did; ‘Gone Gone Gone’ we did in honor of Boz, that was his tune. We had the big Bad Company screen behind us, like 40 feet by 80 feet. You know, the big logo screen.”
DM: From the first album?
HL: “Right. We started the show, it was cool, we had the screen down and nothing but Paul’s piano out in front of it, and he just walked out and started playing ‘Bad Company.’ The screen went up and we walked out, and we had this huge LED screen behind us that was showing pictures of the guys ‘back in the day.’ We were filming it for a live DVD, a high definition DVD.”
DM: Wow, that is cool! How long was the set?
HL: “Umm…..it was long! 90, 100 minutes, maybe - an hour and twenty, something like that. It was long. The place was packed. There were like 5000 people in there, and they were screaming, and they stood up the whole show.”
DM: That’s great, because that might be the last Bad Company show.
HL: “Yeah, you never know. But you know what, everyone was going, ‘Man, we should take this on tour, this was great!’ Everybody was talking about it, so I wouldn’t be completely shocked if I got a call next year to do some more. Simon (Kirke) was a hoot. He was great; playing great.”
DM: Did you have any reservations?
HL: “No! Paul wanted me there just to back Mick (Ralphs) up, just in case, and cover the harmonies. Plus, me and Lynn do all the backup singing.”
DM: Mick still plays, right?
HL: “Yeah, I think he plays some in England. I don’t think he plays like we do! He plays like in clubs, and pubs, little stuff around London. Not like, full-on pro stuff that we do. But he played good! Some of his stuff was real cool. His amp blew up in the middle of the show, which was kind of a drag.”
DM: Oh my God!
HL: “It was fine through the rehearsals but as soon as it counts, something blows up. That’s typical. But it was a lot of fun.”
DM: I can’t imagine, with Paul’s schedule, that he would even consider the Bad Company thing. He’ll be out with Queen until the end of the year. Is he going to do a U.S. tour? He would have to, right?!
HL: “I doubt it. They’re mainly a European sensation, you know. They do so much bigger business over there. But, this thing was a lot of fun. Everybody was happy with it. You see all the suits talking, going ‘Yeah, this could work.’ So we’ll see. Maybe next year, instead of doing the Paul dates, we’ll do a Bad Company run.”
DM: That would be incredible!
HL: “Well, I’ll let you know if I hear anything.”
So as I hung up the phone, I gave some deep thought to what I just heard.
It sounds like I’m going to see the greatest rock vocalist in the world perform once again in the coming year. This is always something I look forward to. Seeing Paul Rodgers and his solo band always leaves me shaking my head in disbelief. No matter what period of Rodgers illustrious career is being covered, his band makes all of it sound magical. But, perhaps, this time he won’t be fronting his solo band. The next time I see “The Voice,” he just might be flanked by his longtime Bad Company comrades.
The idea of seeing Rodgers with Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke is something that I have been craving since I was a child. The HD DVD of the August 8, 2008 event is being prepped for an early 2009 release. It will be something that I will watch with wide eyes, like a kid discovering music for the first time. And, I will always hold hope that one day I might finally see this Bad Company lineup, not in high definition, but in the flesh.
Bad Company setlist
Special thanks to legendary rock photographer Carl Dunn for the use of his incredible photographs.
A special thank you to Lucy Piller for her friendship and all of her help.
Extra special thanks to Howard Leese for breaking this story to me while it was still baking in the oven. Your friendship and candor is something I treasure tremendously, Howard. Thank you.