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Night Ranger heads bang-up Coralville concert
Rockers bringing hits, new music to free 4thFest outdoor show
It's not easy for the core of a band to remain together for nearly 40 years. But Night Ranger's power players — bassist/vocalist Jack Blades, guitarist Brad Gillis and vocalist/drummer Kelly Keagy — continue their long-term relationship.
“We’ve become a family,” Keagy said. “We’ve grown up together and we all get along. I think part of the reason we get along is because we communicate. We also enjoy what we do together. If that weren’t so, we wouldn’t be around all of these years.”
Night Ranger, headlining the Coralville 4thFest free concert Sunday night in S.T. Morrison Park, has a deep canon of songs and a number of hits, which continue to score airplay on classic rock radio.
If you go
What: Night Ranger
Where: S.T. Morrison Park, 1513 Seventh St., Coralville
When: 8 p.m. Sunday, July 3; FunkDaddies at 6:30 p.m.; rain or shine
Admission: Free; bring seating; coolers and picnics allowed or buy food and drink from vendors
Among them are anthemic, guitar-driven “You Can Still Rock in America” and the muscular “Don't Tell Me You Love Me.” Both of those songs landed in the top of the Billboard Hot 100 along with “When You Close Your Eyes,” “Sentimental Street,” “Four in the Morning (I Can't Take Anymore)” and “Goodbye.”
However, the biggest Night Ranger song was crafted by Keagy. His power ballad, “Sister Christian,” peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song, which appeared on the soundtracks of “Boogie Nights” and “Friday the 13th,” remains a fan favorite.
“We were just so fortunate with ‘Sister Christian,’ ” Keagy said. “You never know what’s going to be a hit. I remember what it was like when I was writing it. I wrote it for my little sister. It was a big brother/little sister thing.
“I remember visiting my sister in Oregon. I wanted to send her a message about growing up. It was about handling things in life. What I wrote turned out to be ‘Sister Christian.’ It's amazing how the song has been embraced,” he said. “Who could have guessed?”
Night Ranger isn’t resting on its laurels. The venerable band continues to make albums in an age of EPs and singles. Night Ranger’s latest, “ATBPO,” which stands for “And the Band Played On,” dropped in 2021 and “Don't Let Up” was released in 2017.
“We still want to create,” Keagy said. "I can't imagine what it would be like to just play the old songs. We love playing our hits but we don't want to just go out and be a nostalgia act. It's cool that we're still inspired and I still love to play and sing.“
Keagy, 69, is a rarity, along with Don Henley of the Eagles and Peter Rivera of Rare Earth fame, who plays drums and sings simultaneously.
“Since I was a kid I’ve always sung,” he said. “I grew up with Elvis Presley and the Beatles. I learned to play drums and I just sang. It’s worked out for me. I love what I do.”
Night Ranger, which also includes guitarist Keri Kelli and keyboardist Eric Levy, has always been about substance as opposed to style.
“It’s about the songs,” Keagy noted. “We always aimed to write the best songs that we can write, and to be the best musicians that we can be. It all started with the influence the Beatles had on us and so many bands. We always aimed high. Who knew that it would work out and we would become this band that not just has had some success but also stayed together for a long, long time?
“If you told me in 1984 we would still be a band nearly 40 years later, I never would have believed it,” he said.
“But the cool thing is that we are a band all of these years later and the fans still support us. We don't take that for granted and we hope to be around for many years.”