For nearly 30 years, Tom Keifer has been a staple in the hard rock world as the singer/guitarist/songwriter for the band Cinderella. In a genre full of hasbeens and neverwas artists, Tom has managed to stay relevant and stick to his guns through thick and thin. Tom is one of the most inspiring artists out there in my opinion. He has used his music to rise above all of the bogus shit that he has gone through in his life. Everything from the legal battles that keep Cinderella from making new music to his ongoing battle with vocal cord issues would have knocked anyone else out of the race. Instead of accepting defeat, Keifer forged on and the result of his perseverance is his latest album The Way Life Goes. Tom hit the road for his first ever solo tour behind this stellar album and brought his show to the small Buford, GA venue 37 Main. I was so psyched to see this performance but I was less than thrilled at the venue choice.
Before we get too into the performance, we have to talk about this venue. The venue is in the small downtown area of Buford, GA. I was pretty surprised that this was the venue they picked for Tom to play. It’s an uber cheesy hair metal kind of night club and it’s so kitschy you can’t help but feel you’re being made fun of. The décor consists of huge photos of Jon Bon Jovi and Guns N’ Roses and waitresses walking around with their breasts hanging out. Ok, that wasn’t such a bad thing but you get the picture. As for the majority of the clientele, if you ever wanted to know what ever happened to that one guy who played in that one band, he’s here, he’s about 100lbs heavier, receding hairline, and he’s at the bar. His daughter is the bartender as well. It was really kind of a bummer for me because I couldn’t help but feel that this venue choice totally cheapened the experience for me.
Since there was no photo pit I was unable to make it anywhere near the stage to grab some good photos so instead of fighting, I secured a comfortable place in the back of the ¾ full room and just as I found my prime spot the houselights went down and Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” played over the PA. I couldn’t help but feel that an appropriate song to intro Tom’s show. The band took the stage opening with the Cinderella song “Sick for the Cure” which was an awesome opener. This song is a testament to Tom’s love of rock n’ roll music and it definitely set the tone for the rest of the night. I held my breath before Tom started singing and the minute he stepped to the mic I let out a huge sigh of relief. Tom sounded absolutely amazing on this song and for the duration of the set he would continue to blow me away.
Tom followed things up with “Ain’t That a Bitch” from his solo album and this song just kicked all sorts of ass. The only problem was that the crowd all of the sudden just seemed to lose steam. For some reason these people just weren’t reacting to the new songs the way I was. The new songs were absolutely amazing and they sounded so good live but this wasn’t a crowd that wanted to hear new songs. This was a middle aged audience who were celebrating their “big night out” without the kids or husband/wife. These folks wanted the hits. They wanted a Cinderella set and I commend Tom for sticking to his guns and giving everyone the show that he wanted to give them.
The highlight of the set for me was the storyteller acoustic set. The band pulled up some bar stools and Tom started telling the story about the early days of Cinderella before kicking into a blues infused rendition of “Shake Me.” I absolutely loved that they did this but again, this just seemed to go over everyone’s head. One guy behind me kept yelling, “Play it right!” I turned around and politely asked him to shut his piehole. Getting to hear “One For Rock N’ Roll” from Heartbreak Station was a real treat for me and I loved it that Tom introduced the song by saying, “My parents did a good job raising me but Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones had a big fucking hand in it as well.” Tom really seemed to be enjoying this aspect of the show and he had this very comfortable vibe going on with it. Tom has his lovely wife Savannah Snow join him on “Ask Me Yesterday” which brought on some serious goosebumps. Again, I totally loved it but the mood again was killed by people saying stupid stuff like, “I wanna hear the rock stuff. Play “Nobody’s Fool”!” It’s a real bummer for me that the majority of these folks didn’t really see what an amazing gift they were being given. It’s kind of like the kid who gets this awesome toy for Christmas and he/she says, “But I wanted THAT one.”
Song for song Tom’s voice sounded amazing. He was pushing himself and giving the 110% that he always gives but the majority of his band just didn’t seem to be matching his energy. With the exception of his 2nd guitarist, the band just seemed to be kind of bored. They sounded killer but there just didn’t seem to be much chemistry on stage. In all honesty, this was ok with me because Tom, as always, was running the show and really bringing it. The set continued on with a killer mix of new material and Cinderella classics like “Don’t Know What You Got Till’ It’s Gone” and “Coming Home.” The set ending “Shelter Me” brought down the house (FINALLY, the crowd responds). Watching Tom on this song was like going to church as he testified to the God of Rock n’ Roll dropping to his knees like a lanky white James Brown who just saw the light. Just when I thought that couldn’t be topped, the band returned for a jaw dropping encore of the Joe Cocker version of “A Little Help from My Friends.” Once again, I couldn’t help but feel the personal and autobiographical tone of this song and it literally brought a tear to my eye as the crowd, once again, woke the hell up and roared with approval. That, my friends, is powerful stuff. The band then launched right into “Gypsy Road” which again brought a huge response from the crowd. Tom introduced the band and bid everyone good night saying, “Thank you for keeping this music alive for 30 years and for making my dreams come true. I hope all of your dreams come true. Good night and see you next time.”
If you’re going to see Tom Keifer on this tour, please keep one thing in mind. This is his solo tour. If you’re going to go and scream for a bunch of Cinderella songs, don’t do that and kill it for those that are there to take it all in. Just go and open your mind and ears to some outstanding new material and know that you’ll get your hand full of obligatory Cinderella tunes. In all honesty, I would’ve loved to have heard more solo stuff and maybe even some deeper Cinderella songs but Tom is doing his best to appease everyone.
Seeing Tom Keifer like this was nothing short of amazing. Even as lame as the crowd was, as crappy as the sound in the room was, and as lame as the venue was, Tom’s performance rose above it all and totally took me away from it all and captivated me. Its shows like this that make me proud to be a fan of an artist and its shows like this that inspire me as a musician myself. Regardless of those that didn’t get the message, those of us that did got it loud and clear. Thanks Tom. Let’s do it for another 30 years.
Tom Keifer Setlist
Sick for the Cure
Ain’t That a Bitch
A Different Light
Ask Me Yesterday
The Flower Song
One for Rock and Roll
Cold Day in Hell
Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)
With a Little Help from My Friends