By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

July 15, 1999

Once upon a time, when FM radio was required listening and bands were encouraged to have careers longer than the life of one hit single, the first incarnation of Bad Company was a comet that produced six hit-packed albums over eight years before sputtering out.

Twenty-six years after "Can't Get Enough (of Your Love)" imprinted itself on the brain of every rhythm-guitar wannabe, that original lineup is back. And on Tuesday night at Kiel Center, it rocked a small but enthusiastic crowd - many of whom had been royally hacked off by opener David Lee Roth. But more about that later.

Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers, guitarist Mick Ralphs, bassist Boz Burrell and drummer Simon Kirke proved, if nothing else, that experience counts. And they had plenty of experience even before forming Bad Company: Rodgers ("All Right Now") and Kirke in Free, Burrell in King Crimson and Ralphs in Mott the Hoople.

Their 80-minute set, supported by a minimalist backdrop and light display, was all about the music. They kicked things off with "Can't Get Enough," turning the first song of the night into a sing-along.

Rodgers, long one of the finest voices in rock, has improved with age, developing an underlying huskiness. Since leaving Bad Company in 1983, he has worked with Jimmy Page in The Firm and Kenny Jones in The Law, and he has recorded well-received solo albums, including the Grammy-nominated "Muddy Waters Blues" in 1994.

After the split, Ralphs, Kirke and Burrell soldiered on with Rodgers-less versions of Bad Company and assorted solo projects.

On Tuesday, they gave the mike-stand twirling Rodgers a solid foundation, and the fit and trim singer led them through a classic-rock Top 14, including "Movin' On," "Rock Steady," "Ready for Love," "Shooting Star," "Feel Like Makin' Love" and, of course, "Bad Company" for the show-closing second encore.

Highlights along the way included a mini-acoustic set of "Seagull" and "Soul of Love"; a cover of the Coasters' classic "Youngblood"; and two new songs from the two-CD "'Original' Bad Company Anthology": "Tracking Down a Runaway" and "Hammer of Love," featuring fine twin guitars by Rodgers and Ralphs.

Where Bad Company was about the music, David Lee Roth was about, well, David Lee Roth.

Diamond Dave, dipping into his Van Halen songbook for "Dance the Night Away," "Running With the Devil," "Hot for Teacher" and "So This is Love," among others, was at his leaping, twirling, prancing, preening and crotch-grabbing best.

His one-note act had the crowd on his side, too, until he made a disparaging remark about St. Louis favorite Sammy Hagar, who replaced Roth in Van Halen until his recent ouster.

That earned a drizzle of boos that continued for the rest of the show and through the encores, which included "Jump" - backed by keyboards on tape.

If Roth was aware he had offended anyone, he didn't show it.