August 30, 2016 Firefall Sail Into Port Jefferson, NY 8-25-16
The 1970s were a pivotal time in history of Rock-n-Roll. It had been a decade since the British Invasion, led by bands like The Beatles, took the world by storm, and through the years, many new sub-genres began to emerge. From the rise of Punk Rock, to Heavy Metal, to New Wave, to Country Rock, one could say it was one of the biggest transition periods in Rock history. Amidst the plethora of talented acts to cross boundaries and styles into the Rock-n-Roll mainstream was a band out of Boulder, Colorado by the name of Firefall. Uniting Country Rock and Classic Rock vibes, they were one of the many to breakthrough in the Soft Rock style, an alternative to the heavier Rock of the day. Debuting in 1976 with their self-titled album, Firefall went on to major commercial success with three Gold albums, two Platinum albums, and eleven chart-topping singles.
Now celebrating their 40th anniversary, Firefall are one of the few bands from the era still standing. In fact, the band stands with three original members, including Guitarist Jock Bartley, Multi-instrumentalist David Muse, and Bassist Mark Andes, along with longtime Drummer Sandy Ficca as well as new Guitarist/Vocalist Gary Jones. Recently inducted a part of the 2015 class into Colorado Music Hall of Fame alongside Poco, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Stephen Stills and Manassas, Firefall continue to tour to fans delight. While touring has slowed down slightly from their early days when they were out on the road with such at as the Doobie Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Electric Light Orchestra, and Fleetwood Mac, their live gigs nowadays are a labor of love as they play select shows around the country. Speaking of which, on Thursday, August 25th, the band made a special New York area appearance when they visited Port Jefferson Village out on Long Island, NY. The last gig of the traditional Port Jefferson Concert Series, it was perhaps the most anticipated of the season as friends and family gathered on the dock adjacent to The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry.
With an early rain coming and going, the first act to get the crowd going was Long Island local The Kerry Kearney Band. A local legend of sorts, Kearney is a slide guitar master who has been honored with such awards as “Best Guitarist of 1999″ by the LI Voice, “Bluesman of the Year 2004” by the LI Blues Society, and was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame in 2013. Always gracious to play shows in his hometown of Long Island, Kearney has played everywhere from local coffee shops to sharing the stage with B.B. King at The Paramount in Huntington.
Approaching the stage, Kearney and his talented band including Drummer Mario Staiano, Keyboardist David Bennett Cohen, as well as Bassist Gerry Sorrentino caught the crowd by surprise. Setting up their instruments casually, they soon ripped into a powerful set of Blues Rock. Jamming heavy, the band set the mood with original feel-good tunes that had everyone in a groove. Kearney, loose and comfortable in a live setting, slid up and down the guitar fretboard with ease as each note had the right passion at the right moment. All in all a delightful opening set, The Kerry Kearney Band will continue bringing Blues Rock to Long Island with various shows everywhere from Long Beach to Riverhead now through October.
Now, as the night was completely set in and any threat of rain had subsided, the platform was ready for Firefall. A rare visit to the Long Island area, the setting seemed almost fitting with the Long Island Sound in the backdrop as Firefall prepared to begin their set as the final ferry departed across to Connecticut for the night. Humble and in good spirits, the band came out offering up the debut single, “Livin’ Ain’t Livin’.” A powerful lyrical track, Jones took lead vocals as Bartley, Muse, and Andes complemented with backing vocals. A rich and full opening, they transitioned into another early tune with “It Doesn’t Matter.” Featuring more beautifully harmonized vocals, the guitar work of Bartley took the spotlight throughout the rendition as his solos shined bright.
Only two songs in, the band took the time to further address those who came out to see them, assuring they more than likely knew the next track. Certainly true, everyone’s eyes lit up as the strumming of the acoustic guitar began and they lifted off into one of the most touching love songs ever, “Just Remember I Love You.” Inspiring some women to get up and dance, many sang along and cherished the classic track that went #1 on Adult Contemporary charts back in 1977. From here, the set was easy sailing as Bartley spoke to the audience about their vast history and reflected on those early days such as touring with Fleetwood Mac back in 1977. A special time for Firefall, it seemed only fitting they would segue into their 1977 single “Cinderella” to keep the music coming. Thereafter, they would provide more education to the spectators, expressing how their influence comes directly from acts such as The Bryds and Buffalo Springfield, thus ushering in a cover of Spirit classic “Nature’s Way” with Andres on lead vocals.
Speaking of the Fleetwood Mac Rumours Tour, Bartley went on to talk of the year to follow when the band went in to record their third studio album, Elan. Continuing the success for Firefall, they showcased their two big singles of that record, first with “Goodbye, I Love You” and later on with the Progressive-feeling “Strange Way.” Both welcomed by the audience, Firefall did not skip a beat as their renditions were tight, passionate, and charming. Amidst the two 1978 cuts, they sprinkled another one of their most popular hits, the song that really put them on the map back in 1976, “You Are the Woman.” Yet another delightful piece of Soft Rock history, fans from all generations knew the song as they smiled and hummed along with the irresistible melody.
Wondering if the set was coming to a close, the band assured the audience they still had more left to give as they went on to introduce each member of Firefall. Deep with history and experience, the list of associated acts among them is impressive to say the least. Going from Muse’s history with Marshall Tucker Band, Andes history with many including Spirit and Heart, Ficken drumming in Firefall since 1984, the talents of good friend Jones coupled with co-founder Bartley, Firefall is not a shadow of themselves. That being said, they transcended into the finale of their set as they played the enchanting guitar driven “Mexico.”
Bidding Long Island farewell, Firefall expressed their gratitude for everyone’s support with hopes to see them again soon. An overall wonderful set, some bands go out on the road with little to no original members, but Firefall proudly include a lineup that is formidable. Forty years together is a long time, and to keep the music alive through ups, downs, and lineup changes is a tremendous feat. They are the type of band which would be wonderful to see team up on tour with America, Christopher Cross, Ambrosia, or how about a revisit with Fleetwood Mac? Whatever it may be, those looking to catch Firefall live will have a few more chances before the end of 2016 with a handful of shows between September 10th and October 21st.