Thanks to a strong opener that played a longer than expected set, singer/guitarist Randy Bachman and singer/bassist Fred Turner had about an hour to put their show into overdrive, something they did in spurts Saturday night at Toronto's Molson Amphitheatre.
The duo, both 67 years young and together again after a few years apart, looked like they were feeling some effects of Father Time before a rather small crowd the filled about one-quarter of the seated area. But don't tell that to Turner, whose hearty howling timbre roared through the opening number Roll On Down The Highway as he and Bachman played off each other. The song atoned for a rather hokey video that introduced the band.
Supported by three additional musicians, Bachman-Turner kept things moving steadily with the heavier 70s classic rock numbers like the hard-charging Not Fragile that came off better than expected. Meanwhile Bachman would later slow things down with a mellow, jazzy Lookin' Out For #1 that closed with some sweet guitar licks.
Thanking the crowd for coming as well as some family and friends, Turner – who gruff exterior resembles somebody whose property you wouldn't want to trespass – delivered Moonlight Ride quite well while Bachman held his own vocally on Rock Is My Life, This Is My Song and the first highlight Hey You.
And while more warhorses like You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet and Takin' Care Of Business served their roles near the homestretch, the band shone on Stayed Awake All Night. Here Bachman pulled out a drum stick and used it on his guitar before the riff to American Woman energized the generally older (and occasionally wobbly from too many beverages) audience.
Perhaps the bill might have been better suited if singer Paul Rodgers closed the evening. Rodgers – whose career has rarely taken a wrong turn – was terrific during a nearly 90-minute set featuring hits from Bad Company and Free. The consummate showman and his band opened with the first of several signatures with Can't Get Enough.
Letting the crowd take over some of the choruses and refrains, Rodgers and crew had many up during the air guitar-inducing Feel Like Makin' Love and Shooting Star, the latter having a disco ball drop from the rafters. Only in a few spots, such as when Rodgers opened Seagull acoustically, did the momentum temporarily sag.
Stating that it was “a good night for rock and roll,” the singer soared on Bad Company, the blues-rock nugget Mr. Big and Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy when not banging on a tambourine, standing on playing a small piano or repeatedly twirling his microphone stand in his hand like a seasoned pro. Fortunately he didn't leave without the timeless All Right Now that got nearly everyone up and moving.
On the whole Rodgers was an extremely capable opener, perhaps almost too capable.