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Concert Reviews:
The Rides roll through convincing show in Ann Arbor
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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ANN ARBOR -- Who could have guessed that the junior partner in the "supergroup" The Rides would emerge as the first among equals on Friday night, May 6, at the Michigan Theater.

It's safe to say that the boomer-dominated crowd trooped out for the hour-and-45-minute show to see two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Stephen Stills -- though the well-informed among them certainly knew that keyboardist Barry Goldberg, with voluminous credits including the Electric Flag and Bob Dylan, wasn't exactly chopped liver. But they surely left with greater regard for Kenny Wayne Shepherd, himself a rock and blues veteran who played with a force-of-nature ferocity and fiery heroics that highlighted nearly all 17 of the night's songs.

Shepherd -- who at 33 is less than half his bandmates' ages -- staked his claim early with the first solo of the night, on "Kick Out of It" from the Rides' second album, "Pierced Arrow," which also came out on Friday. Shepherd also showcased on songs such as "Roadhouse," "By My Side," Elmore James' "Talk To Me Baby" and a ferocious and appropriate-for-Ann-Arbor cover of Iggy Pop & the Stooges' "Search and Destroy." Even more revelatory, however, was his singing; Shepherd cedes most of the vocal work in his own band to longtime cohort Noah Hunt, but with The Rides he shares equal billing on the mic and on Friday even established himself as the group's eminent singer, as assured as he is on his guitar and highlighting the new "Virtual World" by harmonizing with Stills.

The other Rides were hardly kicked the proverbial curb, however. Stills was greeted by the crowd as a genuine icon and mitigated his increasingly strained vocals with plenty of tasteful guitar playing, complementing and contrasting with Shepherd and still getting plenty of his own dander up on "Don't Want Lies" and "Love the One Your With," which he dedicated to a friend who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1967 and which finally got the Michigan Theater crowd on its feet late in the show. A rendition of Buffalo Springfield's "Bluebird," meanwhile, was the Rides' sole trip into jamland, with a lengthy mid-song excursion that gave Stills, Shepherd and bassist Kevin McCormick room for some psychedelic stretching out.

Goldberg didn't get as much spotlight time as the guitarists, but he made the most of his chances on both piano ("Talk To Me Baby," "Need Your Lovin'")

and organ ("Use My Imagination").

The Rides finished with the Neil Young protest anthem "Rockin' in the Free World" -- an appropriate statement about the group's potency and one final chance for Shepherd to steal the show yet again.



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