Known as the “long song” band of Motown, with their average song consisting of around an average of 7 minutes per song, Rare Earth came to Las Vegas and showed why they were and still are the best. The band was originally formed in 1960 as The Sunliners, and changed their name in 1968 to Rare Earth. They signed with Verve in 1968, and then with Motown Records in 1969. They weren’t the first white group to be on Motown, but they were the first big hit making group the label had that consisted of only white members. In fact, Motown formed Rare Earth Records after the band jokingly suggested that Motown Records call the label, that they decided to form around the band, just that, “Rare Earth”.
Rare Earth has an amazing track record of over 3,000 concerts with such performances as the Ed Sullivan Show, The David Frost Show, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. Rare Earth performed on the very first Midnight Special where they set the precedent in performing live instead of lip synchronization to a record. They had been asked back for a total of three times by the producers of Midnight Special. They have performed with legendary acts such as Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, and Ike and Tina Turner. Some acts that have opened a Rare Earth concert are Earth, Wind, and Fire, Steely Dan, and the Doobie Brothers. Out of the nine albums released by Rare Earth, two have gone Double Platinum (“Get Ready” and “Rare Earth in Concert”); one Platinum (“One World”); and three Gold (“Ecology”, “Willie Remembers”, and “Ma”), along with several million selling singles. The group tours Europe annually with rave reviews.
A band with such a reputation would have certain expectations attached to it, and tonight I would find out if they lived up to all of the expectations and the hype, that has formed over the years. One thing to note, this was never one of those “slouchy” bands that just formed to play and jam, or that never worried about how good they were because they were in this just for the money or women. You can tell they have a love and passion for all they do if you listen to any Rare Earth recording, especially the live ones.
I came into the venue and got seated and was ready, willing, and in anticipation of something truly magnanimous. The band came on and just started to jam, which one would expect, but this was just the “tip of the iceberg”, just an inkling of what was to come.
As they went into their second song, “Big Brother”, they were not warmed up, but hot and rolling, like an old muscle car that is warmed up and is looking for the next victim, ready to pounce. It was as if they had never lost a beat and time had stopped and we had now been transported back into the late 60’s/early 70’s. The magic was already here, and this was just the second song. In between each song, original member Gil Bridges would talk to the crowd and introduce the next song, and with each intro the crowd got more excited and came more alive. They played both their classic hits and three new songs from their new album, ‘A Brand New World’, which we were lovingly introduced to. The guys have a chemistry that most married couples, let alone most bands, could only hope to achieve and all dream of having. To understand Rare Earth is to understand this, these players are consummate musicians who have honed their craft so well that no one will ever be able to come close to touching them. That was true back in the beginning, and that has never changed and is still true today.
As “the band played on”, their energy infused the room and the audience as they played old and new songs, and for many, this walk down memory lane seemed like a small hop, but one all would make with no regret. A very interesting thing to note about this performance is that Rare Earth had a very small amount of sound equipment (speakers, etc) with them up on stage, and yet was able to pull out sound that was so large, so full, so pure, and so totally full of clarity and depth, that it would rival the biggest sound stage setups. The capacity crowd this night was proud to be there and to be a part of this “living history” and everyone, especially us “Detroiters”, were proud as to the fact that they are still the best and were worthy of being on Motown Records.
Through out the show, and on and thru each song, they played as if each song was their greatest classic hit ever, and being in no hurry, you could tell they were having an awesome time. The only question is who was having more fun, the crowd or the band. I am not sure if we will ever know, but it may just have to go down as a tie. Near the end of the third song, “Born To Wander”, they went into a slice of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, the big hit for The Temptations, written by Norman Whitfield. After they finished this song, Gil Bridges told us all about Norm and their relationship with him, and that he had recently passed. They ten proceeded to perform a version of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” in tribute to him, which was “so sweet” and so dead on, that you could almost swear that the spirit of The Temptations was there in the room, up on stage with the band. One more thing was definitely evident, you knew in your heart that Norman Whitfield was looking down smiling.
Near the end of the show they went into two of their biggest hits, and two of the most historic songs in music history. They began to perform the last song of the night, “Get Ready”, which spent 3 years on the charts and took one entire side of the album. The song highlighted each members skill and talent, and in such a way that we were all in awe. This song, even more so than the others, brought the band and crown into unison as one, like the proverbial newlywed couple on their honeymoon night. There was a drum solo, sax solo, keyboard solo, bass solo, and guitar solo and we wished “the honeymoon” would never end.
They finished, and to a roaring ovation, came out to do one more. This was their time to shine, one final time, and they performed as their encore, a song we all loved and were so expectantly waiting for, “I Just Want To Celebrate”. As they began to perform, the crowd was right there with them every step of the way. On the chorus, band and crowd were one in unison, and it was beautiful and righteous. They then finished and we were all a little sad, only that it had to end so quickly, like a child on Christmas morning after he opens his presents and realizes there are no more. The band came out afterwards and met the fans and signed autographs, and unlike some rushed meet and greet sessions, they truly care about their fans and took the time with each and everyone. It is a night and an experience that will be remembered by each and everyone who was there, for a lifetime!!!
Big John Is My Name
Born To Wander/Papa Was A Rolling Stone/Born To Wander
Papa Was A Rolling Stone “New Album”
The Love You Save (May Be Your Own) “New Album”
Game Of Love “New Album”
Gimme Some Shelter “New Album”
(I Know) I’m Losing You
I Just Want To Celebrate
The Band is:
Gil Bridges – Sax, Flute, Lead Vocals,
Floyd Stokes, Jr. – Drums, Lead Vocals
Ray Monette – Guitar, Vocals
Randy ‘Bird’ Burghdoff – Bass, Vocals
Mike Bruner - Keyboards