@Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, October 27 2016

It’s rare that a drummer demands the lion’s share of attention during a sumptuous classic rock showcase. But Simon Kirke is a rare drummer.

A founding member of the brilliant Bad Company – and Free before that – it’s impossible to conceive that this most consummate of rhythm kings is just three years shy of his 70th birthday.

It takes something – or someone – special to steal the thunder form under the nose of the ‘Voice Of Rock’. But Kirke is that man. And that’s in no way a criticism of a note perfect Paul Rodgers – the diminutive Teessider was a revelation from start to finish on special night under Newcastle’s lights.

Kirke, however, was imperious. Towering over his band mates on a sparkling drum riser, the trademark sound from his expertly tweaked DW kit was at the heart of everything positive about this career-spanning set.

The decision to position Rodgers’ piano alongside Kirke proved inspired. Two titans of the classic rock world joined by history but just yards apart had Bad Company’s fans transfixed: a soft key here and a solid beat there setting the tone and sparking the mood.

Rhythm, of course, is key to bona fide classics Feel Like Makin’ Love, Run With The Pack and Can’t Get Enough: Kirke paced each and every one of his band’s glorious standards with focus, power and crowd-pleasing panache.

Rodgers and Mick Ralphs responded in style. Forget, for a moment, that Bad Company are 43-years-old and imagine the very best of British blues-based rock distilled into 90 mesmerising minutes. Age is only a number but if this super-talented troupe do go on to celebrate their 45th – or even 50th – anniversary then don’t be surprised. Billed as the Swan Song Tour, this classy quintet (featuring former Heart man Howard Leese and Todd Ronning) didn’t look like a band ready to call time on a phenomenal career.

A spring chicken by comparison, support Richie Sambora is enjoying a welcome renaissance. Fronting RSO, alongside partner Orianthi, the guitarist might have taken his uncomfortable exit from Bon Jovi as a cue to slip quietly into retirement. Instead Sambora is reinvigorated and re-energised – ready to release an eagerly anticipated RSO debut album in 2017 and on a mission to breathe new life into a raft of globally recognised rock standards.

A meandering version of Wanted Dead Or Alive and strident set closer Livin On A Prayer might have roused those bad Company devotees starting to drop off. But it was a spellbinding take on Stranger In This Town that reminded the masses that Sambora was always much more than Jon Bon Jovi’s loyal sidekick.

Bad Company were in good company. And in great form.