Power ballads echo across Tysons as Night Ranger rocks Capital One Hall

Bandmembers from Night Ranger
Night Ranger is ready to rock Capital One Hall in Tysons, Virginia. (Courtesy Capital One Hall)

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Night Ranger at Capital One Hall (Part 1)

If you’re “motorin'” around the Beltway this weekend, you might hear power ballads echoing across Tysons, Virginia.

Night Ranger will rock Capital One Hall on Friday, July 7 as part of the band’s 40th anniversary tour.

“We’re excited about coming to your neck of the woods,” Night Ranger bassist and vocalist Jack Blades told WTOP.

“We’re going to be playing everything under the sun. We’re going to play some of the old stuff, some of the new stuff, some Damn Yankees songs. The good thing about Night Ranger is that every show is different. We play whatever we want to play — we’ll get in the mood and play a song that we grew up listening to.”

Born in Palm Desert, California, in 1954, Blades grew up listening to a feast of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Deep Purple, Tower of Power, Sly & The Family Stone, Ozzy Osbourne and Simon & Garfunkel.

“My parents gave me like a $1 plastic ukulele when I was eight years old,” Blades said.

“I heard The Beatles when I was like 10, I think in ’64. I loved my dad’s comment, he was like, ‘Oh, in six months you’ll never year from these guys,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK, that worked out differently for them.’ … When I was in junior high school, I think I was 13, my parents bought me a bass guitar. … I’ve been the bass player forever and ever and ever.”

In the late ’70s, Blades was performing with a band called Rubicon with Brad Gillis and touring drummer Kelly Keagy when his roommate Alan Fitzgerald, who was busy playing with Sammy Hagar at the time, suggested that they form their own band with guitarist Jeff Watson.

Thus, Night Ranger was born in San Francisco in 1979 for the first album “Dawn Patrol” (1982), featuring the hit song “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.”

“I had written that song and brought it in, but it was almost the end of the session,” Blades said.

“We just monkey wrenched on it and it came out to be this killer song. I read this article one time where Berry Gordy of Motown said, ‘I want something that grabs you right from the first like: ‘Stop, in the name of love!’ … That was the idea behind the [riff]. People are like, ‘What the hell is this? What’s coming out of the radio right now?'”

Their second album, “Midnight Madness” (1983), was their biggest smash, delivering hits like “When You Close Your Eyes” and the iconic power ballad “Sister Christian,” which builds to the chorus of “Motorin’!”

“We had the song ‘Sister Christian’ for the first album, but for some reason we didn’t put it on the first album,” Blades said.

“When we finally decided to put it on, we said, ‘Let’s make it a crescendo to catch people’s attention.’ The famous drum thing at the end … came about because Kelly kept trying different runs at like three or four in the morning. He was getting so pissed off because our producer was like, ‘No, that’s not right.’ He got so frustrated [and played the drum finale] like a big middle finger. Everybody in the studio went, ‘That’s it!'”

The song took on new life when it was featured prominently in the movie “Boogie Nights” (1997).

“They pitched it to us as this independent movie from this dude Paul Thomas Anderson, who didn’t have a rep yet, he was a brand new, edgy film guy,” Blades said.

“We said, ‘It sounds kind of cool, off the grid, it’s going to be an underground cult favorite, go for it.’ … This year, the movie ‘Air’ with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, they put ‘Sister Christian’ in that also, so it’s become a song in the collective consciousness of America.”

The band’s third album, “7 Wishes” (1985), delivered fan favorites like “Sentimental Street,” “Four in the Morning (I Can’t take Any More)” and “Goodbye.” Their fourth album, “Big Life” (1987), featured “The Secret of My Success,” while their fifth album, “Man in Motion” (1988), included the song “I Did It For Love.”

At the end of the 1980s, Blades briefly left Night Ranger to form the supergroup Damn Yankees with Tommy Shaw of Styx and of course Ted Nugent. Their hits included the power ballad “High Enough” (1990).

“Damn Yankees was a great band,” Blades said.

“‘High Enough’ was one of those songs, Tommy Shaw and I pulled that together, literally that whole song was finished in less than an hour. We were afraid to play it for Ted because it’s a ballad. … He sat back with a toothpick in his mouth like, ‘Yep, I know what this song needs.’ He picks up his guitar [and plays the riff]. Tommy and I looked at each other: ‘That’s exactly what this needs.'”

To replace Blades, Night Ranger brought in Gary Moon of Three Dog Night for the album “Feeding off the Mojo” (1995) before Blades returned for “Neverland” (1997).

The band has rolled on ever since with the albums “Seven” (1998), “Hole in the Sun” (2007), “Somewhere in California” (2011), “High Road” (2014), “Don’t Let Up” (2017) and “ATBPO” (2021), which fittingly stands for “And the Band Played On.”

“It’s been such a joy that the audience has been with us for all of these years,” Blades said. “It’s like a celebration of 40 years of good old, kick-ass American rock ‘n roll. When you come to a Night Ranger show, that’s what it’s all about. … We’re not holding anything back when we hit Virginia, baby.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Night Ranger at Capital One Hall (Part 2)

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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