The more things change for Tom Keifer, the more they stay on solid ground. And every concert the Cinderella frontman and chief song writer plays marks a solid victory for a solid musician whose career has been derailed -- but not gone down for the count -- multiple times by a partially paralyzed vocal cord.
The latest San Antonio example came at last Saturday's 102nd annual Fiesta Oyster Bake as Keifer brought his solo band to St. Mary's University accompanied by a plethora of classics, particularly from 1988 sophomore album Long Cold Winter. Keifer, who headlined The Rock Box last November (coverage here), returned five months later with a vastly different setlist while still supporting solo album The Way Life Goes.
Opening with 1991 Cinderella track "The More Things Change " -- which he didn't play at The Rock Box -- Keifer more than held his own vocally while of course displaying his skills on guitar and piano. The latter came during a duet of 1988 MTV hit ballad "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)" with wife Savannah Keifer (ATM footage here). Keifer brought back a slew of other tracks from Cinderella's most bluesy-sounding album, the follow-up to its 1986 metal debut Night Songs. The latter is what helped the band get discovered and taken on tour by Jon Bon Jovi, and the reason it accumulated fans in the first place. But the follow-up is where Keifer's musical heart has consistently been.
As further proof, "The Last Mile" and "Bad Seamstress Blues/Falling Apart at the Seams," two more Long Cold Winter tracks not played here last year, were music to the ears of Cinderella diehards.
Those among the thousands of the carnival and food festival-goers who only knew the hits were left to look on without much singing. Or perhaps they were simply gazing at Savannah Keifer and fellow backup vocalist Kendra Chantelle. The female presence crooned tunes throughout the set and broke out the maracas, while Chantelle -- a Season 10 contestant on "American Idol" -- had fun with her tambourine during finale "Gypsy Road" (watch below).
Not to be outdone were guitarist Tony Higbee, bassist/harmonica player Billy Mercer, drummer Jarred Pope and keyboardist Kory Myers. Officially comprising the Tom Keifer Band, the group also unveiled "Solid Ground" and the title track to Keifer's latest. Night Songs staples "Shake Me," "Somebody Save Me" and "Nobody's Fool" were mandatory, delighting the audience that was back-dropped by dizzying carnival rides.
Keifer also showed his voice was in fine shape when he barked, "What the fuck's up with that?" regarding the Oyster Bake's barrier that separated the fans from the stage by nearly another zip code. Or at least 15 feet. He had company, as Drowning Pool vocalist Jasen Moreno echoed similar sentiments earlier in the day (coverage here).
Keifer and Co. delivered another strongly entertaining performance while benefiting from the fact Everclear, which was supposed to perform after Keifer and prior to headliner Bret Michaels, did not even show up. A St. Mary's spokesman told ATM that Everclear, which is scheduled to play New Braunfels on May 18, missed its flight from Tucson, Arizona, and could not make it to the Alamo City in time, bumping Keifer's set from 5:30 p.m. to 7. Ironically, Michaels' solo band includes bassist Eric Brittingham. That's right. Keifer's original bandmate in Cinderella who stands next to him on Night Songs' cover.
Keifer offered up the title track to Long Cold Winter, arguably Cinderella's bluesiest and slowest tune. Though it didn't jive on a humid spring day at a family-inspired festival, it was still nice to hear another classic that differed from The Rock Box show. Along with covers of the Rolling Stones' "Tumblin' Dice" and The Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends," Keifer and his band exhibited not only fun and entertainment at a festive setting.
Its leader also displayed the power of never giving up on achieving what you want to do. In Keifer's case, that's as good a Cinderella story as any.