Judge Victor Valdivia is bad company. Not because he's dangerous or unpredictable, but because he's a jerk.
The only new appearance from one of rock's most influential bands featuring the original members!
There's really only one reason to care much about this release: Paul Rodgers. BadCo's lead singer is an immensely talented frontman and vocalist and his performance here is absolutely stellar. Even given his age (nearly fifty at the time of the concert), he's in perfect voice and his energy and charisma rival those of younger and more celebrated singers. Ever since his talents helped turn BadCo into one of the most successful band of the '70s, his bluesy, evocative voice has always been one of the most celebrated in music, and here he proves he hasn't lost anything, even some thirty years after BadCo's last moment of glory in the United States.
Unfortunately, Rodgers pretty much carries this entire concert on his shoulders, because the rest of it, sad to say, isn't all that special. BadCo's best music remains worthy of respect, but these performances don't really add much to the original studio recordings, nor are there any new songs that would indicate any sort of creative rebirth that could take advantage of Rodgers' abilities. It's purely a nostalgia concert, and as such isn't particularly significant.
Hard Rock Live was recorded at the Hard Rock Live Arena in Hollywood, Florida, on August 8, 2008. Original BadCo members Rodgers, guitarist Mick Ralphs, and drummer Simon Kirke are joined by new bassist Lynn Sorensen (replacing original bassist Boz Burrell, who passed away in 2006) and backup guitarist Howard Leese (ex-Heart). Here is the set list:
• "Bad Company"
The set list consists entirely of the band's biggest '70s hits, with the most recent songs here—"Rock N' Roll Fantasy" and "Gone Gone Gone"—dating back to 1979. At least BadCo's previous live DVD, Merchants of Cool, incorporated a new song written by Rodgers, "Joe Fabulous." Granted, it wasn't much, but at least there was a token attempt to turn the band into an actual working unit instead of just a nostalgia act. The set list does ignore the albums released under the BadCo name in the '80s and '90s, and that's clearly no accident. During those years, Kirke was the only original member in the band and he tarnished the Bad Company name with a series of forgettable albums released with a series of equally forgettable collaborators. Reportedly, Rodgers is as interested in protecting his rights to the band's name as he is in keeping BadCo alive as a fully working band, so he participates in reunions only if the band performs songs he had a hand in writing and recording. It's perfectly understandable—no one is going to a BadCo concert to sit through the band's hair-metal phase—but it's a shame that the band has become so mercenary by this point, although it is impressive how much effort Rodgers puts into this performance regardless.
Even taking into account that this show is as much for financial reasons as it is for artistic ones, however, it's still not particularly notable. BadCo's classic songs are sturdy and compact enough that they can stand up to virtually any performance, particularly by the very band that wrote and recorded them originally, so there aren't any truly embarrassing moments here. Nonetheless, it's rather painful to see that none of the other musicians are up to Rodgers' standards. Ralphs, once one of the most hard-driving guitarists in rock, seems perpetually winded and flubs enough times that at one point, Rodgers is forced to apologize to the audience. Kirke's drumming is adequate but hardly revelatory, and Leese is superfluous, adding nothing to the sound and even looking pained and embarrassed during much of the concert. Only Sorensen acquits himself reasonably well, and he tends to stay in the background for most of the show. All of which means that while the performance isn't strictly bad, it isn't in the same league as the original studio versions of these songs, even in front of an enthusiastic audience. If anything it's pretty much interchangeable with the Merchants of Cool DVD, which is peculiar considering that performance had, apart from Kirke and Rodgers, a different lineup of the band, although still without Burrell. As with that DVD, it's unlikely you'll play this one more than once, even if you're a fan.
Technically, the disc is serviceable. The anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer is good, with no blurring or artefacting. The concert was shot on DV and looks quite nice. The surround mixes, both Dolby and DTS, are both respectable and clear, but not that loud. They get the job done, but don't expect to really get the most out of your sound system. The only extra is a so-called "trailer" (2:18), which is just a brief highlight reel that originally appeared on the band's Web site. It's nothing of value. The set also comes with an audio CD of the concert, except without the song "Sweet Lil' Sister," which has been excised for space reasons.
You might theoretically be a bit incensed at that omission, but, truth be told, it really doesn't matter. This isn't such an important performance that you'll need to hear every last bit of it. Viewers will marvel at Rodgers' resilience and talent, but otherwise Hard Rock Live isn't essential even for hardcore fans. Newcomers should start with the band's classic '70s recordings collected on the superb The Original Bad Company Anthology while fans looking for a document of BadCo live in their prime should track down the quasi-authorized recording Live in Albuquerque 1976, which was recorded and mixed by Ralphs himself. Either of those would make far better uses of your time and money than this collection.
Guilty of adding nothing to Bad Company's legacy.
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