It takes a lot of courage to pursue a career in music. There are pretty much 4 roads you can end up on; long lasting iconic figure, short lived mega-success, working musician, or never quite paid the bills kinda musician. Every so often, there comes along a musician, who is able to re-introduce himself, his talent, and his style, and become an even bigger success than he originally was in what most people would have said was his “heyday”.
I believe Tom Keifer is one of those musicians. Keifer is best known as the front man/songwriter for the mega-successful Philadelphia rock band Cinderella. Cinderella, for many reasons, (including legalities with their old label), haven’t put out new material in over a decade, yet continue to play live shows at venues holding anywhere from 10-30,000 fans, year after year. Pretty impressive, in this day and age of free downloads, and tightening budgets.
Keifer, who grew up in Springfield, PA and now resides in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Savannah and young son, has recently embarked on tour, to promote his first ever upcoming solo release, “The Way Life Goes.”
I was fortunate enough to catch his show at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindley last week. As someone knew to the area, I didn’t know what to expect, but I can tell you the venue was standing room only, and you could tell that the who’s who of the rock n roll industry in Nashville was present in that club, eagerly anticipating Keifer’s show.
Typically, an artist will start off the night with one of their top 3 most popular songs, this wasn’t the case tonight. Keifer, started the night off with “Sick for the Cure” off of Cinderella’s Heartbreak Station album, a song that I don’t believe was ever released as a single, but rocks none the less. What’s interesting is that it didn’t matter which Cinderella song he started with, because we were all actually there to hear his new material, and we didn’t have to wait long.
From “Ain’t Life a Bitch” to “A Different Light” heads were boppin and the crowd was loving this, and by the third song we started to see Keifer in a different light, in this new phase of his career as a storyteller. Now, that’s not to say Tom hasn’t always been a storyteller, it’d be hard to find a songwriter who wasn’t, but as the front man of Cinderella, Keifer has always been known to be a little quiet and reserved. Not reclusive by any means, but definitely a man who likes his private life private. By the third song of the set, stools and acoustic guitars took center-stage and Tom began to really shine as a storyteller. He started off telling us the story of how one of Cinderella’s greatest hits came to be and then launched into a country-esque, acoustic version of “Shake Me”, which was just incredible.
Tom’s singer-songwriter wife, Savannah joined him on-stage and sang back-ups for the next few songs off of the new album. They began with “Ask Me Yesterday”, which has been floating around you tube for a few months now, and is quickly becoming my favorite, for some reason the vibe reminds me of a cross between Rod Stewart and Carole King, don’t ask me why, I can’t quite put it into words, but that’s what I get. The new single, “The Flower Song” was up next, a beautiful ode to finding your soul-mate, with light-hearted fun lyrics, which Tom dedicated to his soul-mate, wife, as she exited the stage for a few songs. One can’t help wonder, if this new eagerness to share personal antidotes on stage is directly influenced by his southern storyteller soul-mate, Savannah.
The second half of the set was high-energy, bluesy, rock songs with the incredible, unmistakable wailing that Keifer is known for. The octave, range, and style that almost ceased to exist when Keifer was diagnosed with a partial paralysis of his left vocal chord in the early 90’s. A diagnosis that has come back to f**k with him over and over again the past 20 years… but after six surgeries, speech pathologists, voice teachers, vocal coaches, 2 hours of training daily, and much credit to a coach named Ron Anderson, Keifer seems to have defied the odds against this incurable neurological condition and is back on stage giving us his all.
Six songs thru the set at 3rd and Lindley, Keifer busted out with “Solid Ground”, a song that made even the most die-hard Cinderella fans (me), question if this was an older song or not, and then I quickly realized, I had heard this track already being played on Sirius XM. If I had to guess, ‘Solid Ground’ will be single #2, because if the sweet lyrics and soothing sound of “The Flower Song” doesn’t do it for you, the hard-rocking “Solid Ground” surely will.
Savannah re-joined the band for a beautiful acoustic version of “Don’t Know What You Got”, for which we got a lil more behind the scenes story-telling from Tom. Apparently, Cinderella’s biggest love ballad, and arguably one of the biggest love-ballads of the 80’s/90’s wasn’t written about a romantic relationship after all, but about Tom himself, thinking about what would happen if the success he and the band had achieved seemingly overnight, all went away. The lyrics today… “Now I know what I’ve got, it’s just this song...” seem almost prophetic in a way, after learning all we know about Keifer’s vocal paralysis.
“Coming Home” and “Shelter Me” rounded out the Cinderella favorites in the set, two songs that in my opinion are classics that will never get old, and always find new audiences to enjoy them.
The encore was especially moving, as Tom, Savannah, and the band launched into “With a Little Help from My Friends” by The Beatles. It was obvious, some of his best friends were right up on-stage with him, and you couldn’t help but feel that the rest of us, the life-long fans, the crowd that night, well, we’re all friends too.
Tom Keifer is a singer/songwriter and guitarist. That is what he was born to do, and if you ask me, the best is yet to come. Don’t believe me? Pick up your copy of “The Way Life Goes” on April 30th.
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