"It Was Only Rock 'n' Roll (but Sacramento Liked It)" – Tom Keifer at Ace of Spades

Photo by Tanja M. Alvarez

By Tanja M. Alvarez

The story has it that Tom Kiefer's career and that of his Cinderella band mates got a little push after a chance encounter with Jon Bon Jovi at Philadelphia's Empire Rock Club back in 1985. Exactly 30 years later, after the rise and fall of glam metal and struggles to regain his voice after a paralysis of his left vocal chord, the talented singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist is pushing himself to new limits. Supporting his highly anticipated first solo record “The Way Life Goes”, which has been in the making for about a decade and was released in April of 2013, Keifer electrified his Sacramento audience with nothing less than an arena-worthy performance.

Dixon-based Force of Habit did a great job warming up the crowd, which, after a shorts break, immediately came to live with the first chords of Cinderella classic “Falling Apart at the Seams.” Two new songs, “It's Not Enough” and “A Different Light”, were also well received. Then Keifer greeted his fans and exclaimed: “I hope you're feeling loud.” Possibly due to his encouragement but most certainly brought about by the singer's explosive performance fans made lots of noise during “Save Me” and “Shake Me.”

For the next few songs Keifer took a seat at the front of the stage with guitarist Tony Higbee and bassist Billy Mercer at his side. Providing a still intense but more intimate atmosphere for a crowd he's had wrapped around his finger since he first set foot on the stage he delivered an amazing version of “Heartbreak Station.” Right before “Don't Know What You Got” the tall singer shared that his wife Savannah will not be able to perform this song with him as usual because she is in the hospital. He then got out his cell phone, called his wife, and asked flattered fans to sing to her.

The setlist, which was actually dominated by Cinderella songs, was every fan's dream. “Night Songs” was truly incredible and “The Flower Song”, which should have been a huge radio hit, made every 70s child in attendance feel warm and fuzzy inside. However, most notably, all songs seamlessly blended together. There was no distinction between Cinderella songs and solo material assuring that this show would be a wonderful musical experience instead of a drawn out sales pitch.

Speaking of wise choices Kiefer doesn't only know how to pick the right songs but demonstrated great skill in assembling his solo band comprised of a group of seasoned musicians. The performance's skill level did not allude to the fact that these guys have only played 101 shows together and the interplay of whirlwind guitarist Tony Higbee's and cool cat bassist Billy Mercer's personalities was great to watch. Heavyweight Paul Taylor, formerly of Alice Cooper and Winger, took on the important role on keys and Paul Simmons grooved on the drums. 

Soon many were wondering how Kiefer would manage to end this incredibly engaging performance with a bang. With that vivid fire in his eyes his fans love so much he returned to the stage for the encore with two covers and “Gypsy Road.” What at first glance seemed like a bold move with so many well-loved original songs to choose from quickly turned into a triumphant finale. Joe Cocker's “With a Little Help From my Friends” would have made the late icon more than proud, and fans not only liked but absolutely loved his juicy rendition of the Rolling Stone's “It's Only Rock 'n' Roll” getting seduced by Kiefer as he sat at the edge of the stage for part of the song.

You know you are witnessing a great performance when you become so engulfed in the music that you simply forget everything around you for about an hour and a half. Without a doubt, this evening was a glorious revelry of rock 'n' roll. Undeniably, Tom Kiefer is one of the most talented musicians of our time. Remarkably, he put as much energy into this performance as if he was playing the Madison Square Garden. Very possibly, he will be getting secret job offers from Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Charlie Watts once they find out about his rendition of their song.