Guitarist Joel Hoekstra Changes Bands

Joel Hoekstra

Joel Hoekstra
Photo credit: Night Ranger website

Just as fast and stunning as one of Joel Hoekstra’s fiery guitar licks comes word that he is leaving Night Ranger to join Whitesnake.

Hoekstra has been with Night Ranger for nearly a decade, recently performing on the band’s album High Road. The guitarist will continue to fulfill the remaining dates of the band’s tour in support of the album. 

“We couldn’t be happier for Joel,” Night Ranger said in a Facebook post. “The last 8+ years have been a blast and we wish him nothing but the best.”

From wishing the best to expecting the best, David Coverdale of Whitesnake quickly took to the web to announce his band’s new Snake Brother.

“Everyone was very impressed by him,” Coverdale wrote. “Not only for his ability to play amazing guitar, but, also, his very agreeable personality. Coverdale added, “We jammed together and we were mutually impressed enough to ask him to join Whitesnake on the spot.”

Hoekstra replaces Whitesnake’s Doug Aldrich while Night Ranger will announce their new guitarist soon. A few fans posted requests on Night Ranger’s Facebook page to bring back original guitarist Jeff Watson …only time will tell.

Hoekstra has always been a bit of a journeyman, often juggling multiple bands/projects at once including Night Ranger, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and Rock of Ages. 


Concert Review: Ted Nugent at Billy Bob’s Texas (2014)

Ted Nugent in concert at Billy Bob's Texas

Outspoken, but never out-rocked, Ted Nugent stormed the stage at Billy Bob’s Texas Saturday night with his guitar blazing.

“How about we play amazing guitar licks all night?” Nugent asked the energetic crowd. And that’s just what he did, treating fans to a rock ‘n’ roll free for all, or as the avid hunter put it, “A big old Uncle Ted barbecue free for all.”

Nugent and his band (Derek St. Holmes on guitars and vocals, Mick Brown on drums, and Greg Smith on bass and vocals) were in high spirits throughout the show. It turns out the boys had a lot to celebrate on Saturday. Not only was it Nugent’s 6,514 concert, it was also the second to last night of the Shut Up & Jam! tour.  That could explain why St. Holmes spent most of the show bombarding fans with guitar picks…hey, it’s the end of the tour, everything must go, right?

Nugent’s stop at Billy Bob’s Texas has become a summer tradition. Fans came ready to rock out to classic Nugent tunes such as “Free for All,” “Cat Scratch Fever,” and “Stranglehold.”  Added to the setlist this summer were the ’70s deep tracks “Gonzo” and “Queen of the Forest.” Even though Nugent’s latest album (Shut Up & Jam!) was released in July, only the title track saw the light of day on tour. 

Throughout the show, Nugent told the crowd that they inspired him. The admiration was mutual as fans frequently shouted out, “Nugent for President!” 

Ted Nugent in concert at Billy Bob's Texas

By the time the band tore into the final four songs of the main set (“Hey Baby,” “Fred Bear,” “Cat Scratch Fever,” and “Stranglehold”) the energy in the room had reached fever pitch. Fans were standing, clapping, singing, and fist pumping along to the infectious grooves unleashed by the Motor City Madman.  And, yes, a few fans were still combing the floor for St. Holmes’ guitar picks!

Unlike last year’s quick departure from the stage, Nugent returned for an encore, performing “Great White Buffalo.”  When it was all over, Nugent took a moment to absorb the wild spirit in the room…a spirit liberated by the power of rock ‘n’ roll…bringing a sense of freedom to all who experienced it.

Like I said, he may be outspoken, but no one out-rocks Uncle Ted!

What did you think of the show? Share your thoughts with Classic Rock Blog!

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Concert Review: Chris Isaak at Billy Bob’s Texas

Chris Isaak in concert at Billy Bob's Texas

Chris Isaak captured the audience’s attention Friday night at Billy Bob’s Texas the moment he walked onto the stage. He was wearing a blue sequined suit, after all. But wardrobe aside, the Sun Records influenced troubadour and his band of thirty years dazzled the crowd throughout their 28-song, two-hour set. A set that featured classic Isaak tunes, tributes to the legends of Sun Records, and even a surprise guest that had long time local music lovers on cloud nine. 

Isaak started the show with the Elvis Presley rockabilly flavored “Gone Ridin’,” followed by the ’50s pop influenced “Somebody’s Crying” and “I Believe.” Isaak then thanked the audience for coming out to support live music. “Without you, I’d just be wandering around Fort Worth in a sequin suit with nothing to do,” he said. “People would come up to me and ask, ‘Are you a figure skater?'”

Though Isaak didn’t have to wander around town aimlessly, he did wander out into the audience to perform “Don’t Leave Me on My Own.” Making his way to the back of the crowd, Isaak took time for handshakes and pictures, and then mentioned that an old friend of his was in the crowd. Johnny Reno then stood up with his saxophone in hand. Reno had played in Isaak’s band for a while in the ’90s, and before that was an original member of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble. Reno played along with Isaak as they strolled through the crowd, but the real treat would come later in the show when Reno re-joined the band on stage.  

Chris Isaak in concert at Billy Bob's Texas

The middle part of Chris Isaak’s show at Billy Bob’s Texas featured the singer’s more contemporary tunes including the bossa nova and rock mash-up, “Notice the Ring.” Followed by “Let Me Down Easy,” “American Boy,” “Wicked Game,” and an energetic, chant-filled “Goin’ Nowhere,” after which Isaak proclaimed, “Let your freak flag fly, Texas!”

A standout moment of the show came when Isaak performed the torch song, “You Don’t Cry Like I Do.”  The tune’s haunting lyrics (“You don’t want me, you don’t love me, and that’s what kills me.”) and Isaak’s velvet voice made for a stirring performance. I couldn’t help but close my eyes and picture Roy Orbison on stage. 

Near the end of the set, Isaak welcomed Johnny Reno back for four songs that were as eclectic as the performers on stage. Reno shined on the instrumental “Harlem Nocturne” and added a bit of swagger to “Blue Spanish Sky.” Isaak then asked Reno to join in on a song the band hadn’t performed in a while, “Diddley Daddy.” The rockin’ Bo Diddley-esque number had Isaak grinning ear to ear, and featured a scorching organ solo by Scott Plunkett. It was easy to tell that the band was having a blast at this point.

Chris Isaak in concert at Billy Bob's Texas

“Wow! I forgot what I’m supposed to do now,” Isaak said following the rousing performance of “Diddley Daddy.” Luckily, he regained his composure to launch into Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Isaak and band would also cover Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” (complete with a smoking piano and Isaak clad in a silver-plated suit). 

Throughout the  28-song late night show, the energy level at Billy Bob’s Texas never dropped. Indeed, just as dazzling as his wardrobe, Chris Isaak’s performance was downright captivating. 

What did you think of the show? Share your thoughts with Classic Rock Blog!

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‘70s Hitmakers Form New Supergroup: The Empty Hearts

The Empty Hearts

Romantics lead singer Wally Palmar, Blondie drummer Clem Burke, The Cars’ Elliot Easton and Chesterfield Kings bassist Andy Babiuk have formed a new supergroup of sorts called The Empty Hearts. Their self-titled debut album, available on iTunes with three bonus tracks, features a collection of influences that include ‘50s American roots rock ‘n’ roll, ‘60s British invasion and ’70s garage-punk.

“A lot of people have never heard or seen a band like this,” says Burke. “There’s a freshness to it, at the same time as it’s a recollection of the past.”

The group’s creation began with a phone call from Babiuk to old-time pal, Palmar, asking if he wanted to start a band. His sales pitch? “Remember when you first picked up a guitar because you loved the Beatles, the Stones and the Kinks? Wouldn’t it be great to get in a room, write songs and play them like we did when we were teenagers?”

The Empty Hearts will soon be headed to a room near you as the band plans to tour the U.S. this fall.

Rock & Poll: Rate Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ new album, ‘Hypnotic Eye’


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers "Hypnotic Eye"

The sound on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ new album is pure old school. Hypnotic Eye marks a return to the band’s rock and roll roots, drawing comparisons to the group’s first two albums.

What do you think of Hypnotic Eye? Rate the album in Classic Rock Blog’s “Rock & Poll.” 

Brian Setzer to release new album, embark on holiday tour

Brian Setzer "Rockabilly Riot! All Original

There’s a lot of buzz going on in the Brian Setzer camp these days.  The iconic rockabilly guitarist and former Stray Cats member will release a new album in August and will hit the road in November for his annual holiday tour.

Rockabilly Riot: All Original, Setzer’s first studio album in three years, will be released on August 12th.  Though defined as a contemporary kind of rockabilly record, the 12 songs on Rockabilly Riot may remind you of Setzer’s earlier days.

“I think this album sounds to me a little bit like the first Stray Cats record,” says Setzer.  It’s rockabilly songs. It’s not just blues songs in the rockabilly style. People like to call it ‘neo-billy’ I suppose, which is some invented word that somebody came up with, but if that’s the word they want to use, I’d like to go with that because it sounds to me like it’s very modern and fresh-sounding rockabilly.”

Setzer fans can also enjoy a “neo-billy” Christmas as The Brian Setzer Orchestra will hit the road later this year for their annual Christmas Rocks Extravaganza! tour. More details, including ticket pre-sale information, can be found on Setzer’s website

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New Tunes Tuesday – Loverboy

Loverboy "Unfinished Business"

Loverboy is ready to settle some unfinished business with their first album of all-original studio recordings in seven years. Unfinished Business consists of demos written as far back as 40 years ago. Guitarist Paul Dean and the band recently finished the tunes as a show of appreciation to their fans.

The album, whose title was selected through a Facebook fan vote, is a treasure trove of tunes that capture Loverboy’s iconic sound. Packed with catchy synthesizer riffs and blazing guitar solos, Unfinished Business instantly transports fans back to the ‘80s. “Countin’ the Nights” could have easily been one of the band’s hits in their heyday, while the power ballad “Come Undone” is the perfect soul mate to the band’s 1985 hit, “This Could Be the Night.”

Unfinished Business also showcases some out of the ordinary and fun musical arrangements from the band including surf rock guitar riffs by Dean on “Slave” and ragtime piano work by Doug Johnson on “Doin’ It the Hard Way.”

Unfinished Business is available on iTunes and Amazon.