CONCERT REVIEW: Cinderella’s Keifer placed spell on Luzerne crowd

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First Posted: 6/3/2013

Tom Keifer put to bed any pre-conceived notions of soulless, hair band-era musical wanking with his performance Sunday night at Brews Brothers West (75 Main St., Luzerne). The Cinderella frontman, touring in support of his solo debut, “The Way Life Goes,” put together a set that was heavy on Nashvillian singer/songwriter perspective, slice-of-life storytelling, and yes, pure, Marshall/Les Paul-driven rock ‘n’ roll.
Fans looking for Cinderella redux were somewhat out of luck, as Keifer’s solo show is no Cinderella-lite experience. He used this break from the mothership to pull out some rarely performed Cinderella gems, like the opener, “Sick For The Cure” from 1990’s “Heartbreak Station” album. He soon segued into material from his solo debut, like the gritty, Stones-inspired rocker “Solid Ground” – his assembled backing band was tight and locked into the song’s wiry dropped-D groove.
Not long after, Keifer and his band took to chairs placed near the front of the stage for some stripped-down chatter with the crowd, which perhaps understandably was a bit sparse on a Sunday night, but was nevertheless vocal with appreciation. Keifer’s wife, Savannah, who is also a noted writer/musician in her own right, pulled up a chair to join him for the delicate country ballad “Ask Me Yesterday,” – adding poignancy by performing with a woman Keifer referred to onstage as his soul mate.
Keifer playfully teased the crowd prior to the song with his acoustic guitar, explaining how he’d had these riffs he’d been working on circa 1981 shortly after high school – the snippets of which turned out to be future Cinderella classics like “Nobody’s Fool.” Keifer did eventually oblige the crowd, who began to cheer at each familiar riff’s intro, with a smarmy, Delta blues take on the hard rock anthem “Shake Me” – not only impressive for the musical aptitude which went into the arrangement, but also for the crowd’s fiery reception to the originally metal-cut tune’s back porch interpretation.
Keifer, who formed Cinderella in Philadelphia and was born in suburban Delaware County, used his Pennsylvania connection to the crowd’s approval. “You know I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, right?” he asked to a raucous response. “That kind of makes us related, doesn’t it?” he asked before tearing into an appropriately emotionally charged reading of “Coming Home” from Cinderella’s “Long Cold Winter” album – the record that marked the real transition from Cinderella’s metallic outer shell to their more organic, blues/roots-oriented approach, which separated them from the sea of spandex-clad ’80s rock monotony.
If there was any doubt Keifer had more soul than other musicians of his era, no further proof was needed than the encore of Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Keifer, mugging equal parts Cocker’s caricatured grimace and James Brown holler, dripped sweat profusely and sounded like he’d blow a vocal cord; his passion was transparent. Wrapping up the set was a spot-on take of Cinderella’s “Gypsy Road,” the knife-edged telecaster licks showing that even though Keifer’s sound has been tempered by a move to Nashville, he hasn’t lost a step when it comes to playing the role of stage-strutting guitar hero.
“We’ll see ya’ll real soon,” he said with true down-home sincerity as a resilient ovation was in progress. Whether that occurs with Cinderella or another intimate gig on his own, it’s clear Tom Keifer has entered into a remarkably fertile second chapter in his career – he’s taking risks and exploring satisfying new musical avenues while still acknowledging the hard rock thunder that made him a certifiable rock star. You certainly get the sense there’s still a deep reserve of music left inside.