Influences, VH1 Classic Records
Sat. March 17th 2007, House Of Blues, Atlantic City, NJ
Sun. March 18th 2007, TLA Theatre, Philadelphia, PA
Review and photos by Johnny Rodgers, TCE field correspondent

There is no better way to spend the evening than watching two of the world’s greatest singer songwriters laying it down, bare knuckles, with no effects and no production - nothing to hide but pure emotion. That’s what it was like the two nights I was lucky enough to catch Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades - probably the most talented rock duo since Seals and Crofts. The two sat in front of an intimate audience with only acoustic guitars and voices that were pitch-perfect and in complete harmony. Most will remember that Tommy Shaw (of Styx) played with Jack Blades (of Night Ranger) in the Ted Nugent supergroup Damn Yankees. They also branched out on their own in 1995 recording a single record, Hallucination. This year finds them back again supporting their second release Influence. Unlike their first album of lackluster original material, the new CD is a collection of hit songs from the 60's and 70's that had a major influence on the duo.

Many of the songs off the new CD are very hard to cover considering the degree of musicianship and talent of the artists represented. Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades do an amazing job on all fronts covering groups like Orleans and The Zombies to Simon and Garfunkel. I highly recommend the Influence CD as it showcases what these two gifted musicians have created for fans of classic rock. More importantly for me, was their ability to pull these songs off in a live setting with just two voices and acoustic guitars. The House of Blues show in Atlantic City was the second of the tour. Right away Tommy and Jack showed a comfortable vibe in a somewhat unusual setting for both of them. Their harmonies have only improved since their work in Damn Yankees and with voices mixed in a melodic tapestry; they pulled off what would make the greatest voices in Rock n' Roll proud.

You could tell right away that the guys are the best of friends. They clown around and take jabs at each other between songs. The banter was enough to keep all entertained aside from the stunning array of material being performed. The set-list for both nights, were a mix of material from the new CD and a great selection of songs from both artist’s past. Some of the highlights of the set were songs not featured on the Influence CD, such as: David Bowie's “Ziggy Stardust”, The Beatles “Norwegian Wood”, and The Eagles “Take it Easy”. For me, the showstopper was an amazing version of the Damn Yankees track, “Come Again”. Another surprise was Tommy doing the lead vocal on the Night Ranger hit “Sister Christian”. Unique to each show was that members of the audience were invited to join the band on couches arranged on the stage and to join in on some of the vocals.

Both nights were equally fantastic but at the same time…different. The duo did not repeat the same songs from the night before which gave each crowd their own unique experience. Joining Tommy and Jack for a little extra texture were the helping hands of guitarist Will Evankovich, of the band American Drag. After both shows, the guys hung out to talk with the fans, which I thought was very cool. For those readers who were not lucky enough to catch the first run of tour dates, the guys will be going out again for a short tour starting in November. I urge everyone to check out this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s a great way to hear and see some of your favorite material from these two artists in a way you never have before. A listing of some of the material from both nights is below:

Not Fade Away, Summer Breeze, Too Much Time, The Night Goes On, Your Move, I am a Rock, High Enough, Nature’s Way, For what it's Worth/Stop in the Name of Love, Ziggy Stardust, Still Rock in America, Boat on a River, Sounds of Silence, Come Again, Dirty Work, Blue Continental, Girls with Guns, Sister Christian, Stumble In, Fooling Yourself/Love the One You're With, Coming of Age, California Dreaming, Blue Collar Man, Norwegian Wood, Take it Easy, Crystal Ball

Very Special Thanks goes out to: Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw for their great performance, Amanda Cagan for keeping us posted on the best in Rock n'Roll. The staff at “The House of Blues” and “T.L.A.” and also to the Shaw/Blades Tour Manager, Jason for being so kind.

November 7 - Mystic Theatre, Petaluma, CA
November 8 and 9 - Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA
November 10 - Canyon Club, Agoura Hills, CA
November 11 - Canyon Club, Las Vegas, NV
November 14 - Music Mill, Indianapolis, IN
November 16 - Joe's, Chicago, IL
November 17 - Rex Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA
November 18 - Tangier's, Akron, OH