An acoustic evening with Shaw Blades
November 26, 2007
Rams Head Tavern
By JASON PRICE
Well over a decade ago, MTV brought us the acclaimed Unplugged series. VH1 followed suit with the breakthrough series Storytellers. Now seasoned rockers Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw have bottled the magic of these landmark series and taken the show on the road. Shaw Blades has been trekking around the country since the spring in support of their latest release, Influence. The album is the result of their much-discussed idea to pay homage to the artists and songs that had influenced their careers.
The duo rolled into Annapolis, Md., aboard their biodiesel-fueled bus and arrived at the Rams Head Tavern, which was packed to capacity. The fans that had gathered were ready to take in the songs and off-beat antics of their rock heroes. The band is touring smaller venues across the the country, which enhances the more intimate setting. With the fans comfortably seated and the wine and spirits flowing, Shaw Blades hit the stage. Jack and Tommy were all smiles as they took their places on the tiny stage, amid the hoots and hollers of the Styx, Night Ranger and Damn Yankees fans that filled the small club’s audience. Will Evankovich (American Drag), providing backing vocals and guitar work for the duo on this tour, was also along for the evenings festivities. Shaw Blades immediately launched into Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” and followed that with the classic Styx jam “Too Much Time on My Hands,” which left smiles on the faces of the fans excited abut the evening ahead. The sound and lighting at Rams Head Tavern, for those who haven’t experienced this venue, are superb for an act of this sort. The crisp, rich sound pumping through the sound system accentuates the experience, taking acoustic shows to new levels.
Shaw Blades is a band in full command of the stage and their performances. They know how to control the room and present the songs in a fashion that spellbinds the audience. The offerings from Influence came fast and furious. Songs like ?Your Move? (Yes), ?I Am aRock? (Simon & Garfunkel) and the Buffalo Springfield classic “For What It?s Worth,” had the audience captivated and singing along. That is part of the beauty of the Influence album and the live show. Even if you didn’t own the original LPs, we all somehow know the words to the songs and can sing along. Only about 20 minutes into the show, the band had already warmed up the crowd and started coming into its own.
When your band is comprised of two vocalists whose projects, in their heyday, reached staggering heights, you have no shortage of quality material. The duo reached into their personal stashes to pull out hits from both Styx and Night Ranger. During the course of the show, fans clamored for their favorite songs, occasionally shouting them out by name. No one can ever say Tommy and Jack don’t deliver. I honestly can’t recall one song the fans called out that wasn’t played at some point. “Sister Christian,” “CrystalBall,” “Coming of Age” and “High Enough” are just a small sampling of what the band offered up. In between the great music, Tommy and Jack shared stories, capturing the essence of what made Storytellers such a success. Never taking themselves too seriously, they even played their now classic rendition of “When I See Beth Smiling,” a reworked version of a listener-submitted song they had originally performed during their second appearance on The Howard Stern Show this year. The appearances on Stern have turned a few people onto the band that wouldn’t have discovered them on their own. Hopefully, this is just another piece of the puzzle that will fuel the band’s success and provide us with another offering from Shaw Blades in the near future.
By the end of the evening, Shaw Blades had laid down a two-hour-plus set and made it look easy. Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw showed once again they are at the top of their game, with their masterful playing and terrific stage presence. There wasn’t a single person left in their seat, as they received a standing ovation as they took there final bows for the evening. There is no denying the Shaw Blades experience is something that is captured well on their album but should definitely be taken in in person at a small venue. With a little luck, the boys will soon capture the live show on DVD for fans who are looking for a keepsake and the fans who will surely discover them down the line.