You know that a concert has been unbelievably satisfying when the encore starts and the lead singer is still nailing the notes, filling them with the rasp of an old blues man suddenly invigorated by the gift of a new young man’s body.. And this is exactly what happened on a hot July Saturday night when a band called Cinderella took the stage.
Always seemingly out-of-place in the “heavy metal” glam days of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Cinderella was a blues rock band, heavy on the whiskey vocals, meaty bass lines, power drumming, and zooming down the highway guitar licks. Maybe it was Tom Keifer’s good looks or his sashaying across the stage with scarves flowing behind him and his pout that placed them right in the mix of Poison, Warrant and Winger. Maybe it was the debut album cover that seemed to seal their fate for a period of time. But whatever it was, they had a healthy run with some pouffed-out videos that MTV loved before dropping lipstick and metal-pop and digging down into the bluesy Aerosmith roots that begat them back in the Philadelphia area.
“You know, we got lumped in with Poison and Motley Crue and Bon Jovi and Warrant and Skid Row and all that stuff, which is still cool, but I always thought we were a little different, a little bluesier, a bit more 70’s,” guitarist Jeff LaBar explained to me a few days after their Biloxi concert, while he was riding on the bus headed to Illinois. “Tom and I, that’s where we come from, the British rock of the seventies and that’s where we were trying to go. And then we got lumped into the 80’s glam machine and we ended up looking the way we looked.”
The first album, Night Songs
, was a massive hit for the band, “but by the second record we were done with that [glam metal] … It’s just that everybody pictures us as on the first album cover,” said LaBar. The Cinderella that came to rock the Hard Rock was less glam and more rock & roll. Although Keifer still had a flowing scarf, LaBar was dressed down in some leather and a shirtless vest, drummer Fred Coury was ponytailed in a t-shirt, and once-blonde bass player Eric Brittingham was rocking the jet-black hair and tattoos.
Starting off with a “grueling” tour of Europe, “the routing was ridiculous. We were in a different country every other day,” remembered LaBar about the beginnings of their 25th anniversary tour. “We had to hump our gear through the airports and we had to get there like two and a half hours before our flight. It was really hard; a really tough way to start a tour. Especially at our age. We ain’t no spring chickens anymore,” laughed LaBar. “But we got past it, we lived to talk about it and laugh about it and now we’re doing the good old United States again and it’s all good. We’re having a great time.”
Opening with “Once Around The Ride” and then kicking straight into “Shake Me”, Cinderella got off to a frenetically good start, with Brittingham bringing down some massive bass lines. Slinking out in a top hat, Keifer led the band through “Night Songs”, featuring a LaBar solo that hit below the belt, and “The More Things Change” with LaBar on harmonica and Coury tearing the hell out of his drums.
“It’s like I turned around one day and we became classic rock,” LaBar revealed to me, almost surprised that it’s actually been 25 years. “Can I believe it? Yes and no. It seems like only yesterday that we put our first record out, but we’ve got 25 years under our belts and we’re a hell of a lot better. It’s all the same guys and we have just as much fun with each other as we did the very first tour.” After hearing the chatting and laughing in the background, I asked LaBar about the guys still being friends after all these years: “We’re riding on the bus together right now and our generator went out and we’re all like staring at each other and telling stories and making each other laugh and that’s what we do. Our humor has guided us, has let us live with each other. We just make each other laugh our asses off.”
What may come as a surprise is that Cinderella have been touring successfully most summers with no new album to promote. But they love this and love to play for their fans. “You know, we don’t have all the fancy tricks and stuff,” said LaBar. “We just rely on our playing and we take a lot of pride in our actual playing and putting on a good show … If we were doing an arena tour, we’d have some pyro or something. We’d blow up some stuff (laughs). But we’re more into the music and the playing and putting on a show with our actual bodies.”
Hence the full-throttle sounds that they were producing in Biloxi. Songs like “Gypsy Road”, “Shelter Me” and “Nobody’s Fool” were humming with electricity and the fans were eating it up. “”I’m kind of surprised how well we’re doing,” said LaBar happily. “We just did this last year and we don’t have a new record so I’m surprised that people are still digging it without a new record”. When I asked the age-old question of why they haven’t actually gone back into the studio under the Cinderella banner to create some new tastes for their die-hard fans, and if he gets tired of answering this question, LaBar laughed before getting serious: “I just have trouble coming up with a better answer (laughs) … We had a bad experience with that last record deal we had. And the climate of the record business these days is basically, if you want to record something go ahead, put it out on itunes. We’re not really into that. We do records for other people, all four of us work in the studio for other things and that’s cool. What we do together is we tour and we play the Cinderella songs. I never count it out but we have no plans to make a new record.”
Actually, it seems that the guys in Cinderella are quite content with the ways things are. They get to create music on their own as well as with their old gang members. LaBar gave me the quick update on what everyone has going when Cinderella isn’t out on the road: “I’ve been thinking about putting out a solo record. My wife is bugging me to put it out. I’ve got a lot of songs and she’s like, ‘you should record these’ (laughs). I think I will. I’ll do that eventually. I did a record with Frankie Banali and Tony Franklin called Freakshow and that was great. We almost toured that record and were taking offers for tours and then Frankie’s wife died … [but] I’m going to work on the solo record. Tom will continue to mix his solo record. Fred does a lot of studio work. He owns a studio and does a lot of stuff for Disney and for the local sports teams like the LA Kings … And Eric has two new babies, a one year old and like a two month old”.
As well as continuing to play clubs throughout the summer and fall, the band is actually signed up to participate in a few rock & roll cruises. So if they pass through your neck of the woods, there should be no hesitation of going to see them live. LaBar will still spin that guitar around his back but also, more importantly, give you guitar solos that soar out of this world as he did on “Second Wind”, “Coming Home” and “Nobody’s Fool”. Coury is going to shred his drumsticks on “The More Things Change” while Brittingham digs down deep on “Long Cold Winter”. And Keifer is going to literally rip your insides out with his emotional pleas as well as blowing his sax on “Shelter Me”, tinkling the ivories on “Don’t Know What You Got” and adding his own brand of fret artistry on “Second Wind” and the amazing blues-induced powerhouse that is “Long Cold Winter”.SETLIST:
Once Around The Ride, Shake Me, Heartbreak Station, Somebody Save Me, Night Songs, The More Things Change, Coming Home, Second Wind, Don’t Know What You Got, Nobody’s Fool, Gypsy Road. ENCORE:
Long Cold Winter, Shelter Me.