A mid-'80s arena rock juggernaut is back in action - and "motorin''' to town.
Night Ranger, one of the most popular hard rock groups of the '80s, will perform at 8 p.m. tonight at the Railroaders Memorial Museum as part of the city's Alive@Five summer concert series. The band's arsenal of Top 40 hits includes "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," "(You Can Still) Rock In America," "Sister Christian," "When You Close Your Eyes" and "Sentimental Street."
Local rockers Flight 19 will open the concert at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m.
Members of the current incarnation of Night Ranger are (from left) Christian Matthew Cullen, Kelly Keagy, Jack Blades, Joel Hoekstra and Brad Gillis.
"Night Ranger is what the '80s was all about - good-time, pounding arena rock, with a few rock anthems thrown in," said Scott Stuttard, president of in2it Productions, the Hollidaysburg-based live arts and entertainment production and promoting firm responsible for bringing the series' live acts to Altoona. "These shows just keep getting better and better. And this one will be no exception."
Stuttard said getting the band to come to Altoona was a major coup.
"It was tough to get them here - we had to be really creative - especially to get them here on a Friday night," he said. "They're currently on tour with Journey and stopping off in Altoona to rock our town."
If you go
What: Night Ranger, with Flight 19, part of the Alive@Five summer concert series
When: 6:30 p.m. tonight; doors open at 5 p.m.
Where: Railroaders Memorial Museum, 1300 Ninth Ave., Altoona
Admission: Tickets are $20 and can be purchased from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the museum
More information: Call the museum at 946-0834 or visit www. railroadcity.com.
Formed in the early '80s in San Francisco, Night Ranger built a career on crafting guitar-driven rockers and power ballads with big choruses, dual guitars and emotive vocals, selling 17 million albums worldwide to date, according to the group's press release.
Original members Jack Blades (bass-vocals), Brad Gillis (guitar-vocals) and Kelly Keagy (drums-vocals) are joined by Christian Cullen (keyboards) and guitarist Joel Hoekstra in a celebration of the band's silver anniversary that includes an extensive tour of North America.
"Right now, we're just kind of bouncing between our own dates and shows with Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx," Keagy said in a phone interview. "There's been a lot of people coming out and we're still seeing some good, positive energy out there for '80s stuff. We still have as much energy as ever did in the '80s, and we feel we owe that to our audiences."
Keagy described Night Ranger as "an all-American rock band with blazing guitars and good songs.
"That's what the whole point of being in a great rock band is," he said. "We tried to bring in the strongest influences in rock - the Stones, Cream and Hendrix - and combine that with good songwriting. You can hear a lot of Jeff Beck in Brad's playing."
The group's latest effort, 2008's "Hole In The Sun," was the band's first album in a decade and its eighth studio effort.
"We went back in the studio thinking, 'Let's look at the last 20 years and try and see if we can try to embrace the old sounds - how spontaneous they were," Keagy said. "We wanted to update the sound a bit, while still keeping our basic rock roots - the pop influences combined with hard rock."
Despite heavy video rotation on MTV during the height of the group's '80s heyday, Night Ranger was always a band that "put the music first," Keagy said.
"Just the fact that we were able to touch so many people - that's what we embraced," he said. "We never did the ego thing - acting like we were big stars. ... We were just amazed we got as far as we did."
Fans can expect a mix of old and new material, he said. But rest assured, you'll hear all the big hits in what amounts to about a 90-minute set.
"Well, we're just getting started, so we're still figuring out the set list," Keagy said. "Sometimes we just gauge the audience and keep it rollin.' We even bust out a Damn Yankees (an early '90s group of which Blades was a member) song called 'Coming of Age.' We just really love playing every night, and it shows when we get up on stage. Touring is one of the highlights of our lives now - playing in front of the people."
Stuttard called local band Flight 19 a perfect fit for Night Ranger.
"Flight 19 always starts the evening off in an explosive way," he said. "The crowed loves them. By the time their set is done, the headliner has a crowd that is ready to rock and roll."
Lead singer Brian Thomas, 39, of Bellwood said his band is "stoked" to open up for a group he and his bandmates grew up listening to.
"Just getting to share the same stage with them is a huge thrill for us," he said. "It was a thrill last year opening for Loverboy and this year for John Cafferty. This is something else that would've been way above our expectations when we started 10 years ago."
He cited "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" and "(You Can Still) Rock In America" as his favorite Night Ranger songs.
"I absolutely love the dual leads and I'm a sucker for power chords," he said. "Plus, 'Sentimental Street' and 'Goodbye' were always good make-out songs."
He advised would-be comers to have their air guitars ready.
"This is one we marked on our calendar months and months ago," he said. "Just be prepared to be entertained and to have a good time."
Mirror Staff Writer Jimmy Mincin is at 946-7460.