Tom Keifer of Cinderella and L.A. Guns at Steelhouse Omaha, 7-19-2023
I liked L.A. Guns when I was a teen but never bought their albums. I saw them at Fat Jaks in Council Bluffs when I was 15, but I went for the opening band, London Choirboys. I saw a version of them at The Waiting Room, but went to see if Jizzy Pearl, who was singing for that version at the time, would sing “Black Out In The Red Room” from his old band Love/Hate (he did). I found their set last night to be very good, with a handful of songs I still remembered and some new material that held up among their well-known classics. The band finds Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns together again, with the other notable member being Ace Von Johnson on rhythm guitar, who has been a member of later versions of Faster Pussycat and played with Cheap Trick and others. He was out front before the show, signing autographs at the merchandise table. The band took the stage with their much smaller banner kind of tacked up to Tom Kiefer’s very large banner. Phil mentioned that you would need a looking glass to see it. Phil sounded good still, and Tracii got plenty of showcase guitar moments in and riffed on AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Eddie Van Halen, and more. The band played “Sex Action”, “Never Enough” “Electric Gypsy”, and of course “Ballad Of Jayne”, which is one of the best ballads of that era. Lewis introduced one new song as a “dying breed”, that being the power ballad. That is an understatement. They then played the song “Diamonds” off their latest album, Black Diamond, which was a good sing-along song.
The only time I ever saw Cinderella was 25 years ago at The Shadow nightclub here in Omaha. The band had just reunited, and obviously they were not playing big rooms. My memories of that night are foggy, and I feel like they were on a small makeshift stage, with them sounding great and Keifer sweating off the makeup and his face looking like it was melting. Last night at Steelhouse Omaha, you could see the sweat dripping off of him as he and the band worked hard to deliver a stellar performance. There was much less makeup this time. Keifer has had many surgeries on his voice over the years due to having had paralysis there, having to sing in different ways, and stuff I will never fully understand. When he talks and even when he sings, you can hear it and even see it. You can see and feel the effort he puts in to make his craft happen. Honestly, it’s not distracting but kind of fascinating during the first couple of songs, and then you forget about it. At 62 years old, the way he sings to start with and after all he has been through, I will never know how he sounds as good as he does. He only played two solo songs last night, and the rest of the show was a very generous helping of Cinderella favorites. The band he had with him absolutely nailed those songs, and Keifer is still the showman and did not phone in the performance one bit. Sure, the rock talk is probably the same everywhere, but the effort put into the performance and his passion for those songs are very evident. Highlights included a blistering “Nobody’s Fool”, the fun hippy sing-along vibe of “Shelter Me,” and him and his wife Savannah swapping turns on the piano during “Don’t Know What You Got (Until It’s Gone).”
The band closed out the night with “Gypsy Road”, but before that they played The Beatles “With A Little Help From My Friends”, and if you would have asked me if I ever needed to hear that song again in my life before last night, I would’ve said no, but I guess I did as their version was epic and goosebump inducing. I have seen a lot of bands from this era either phone it in or play OK, and Keifer and his band absolutely knocked it out of the park. Honestly, it made me kind of curious to hear him play more of his more current stuff live and see what that is about. Maybe next time.