(Originally written for Reverb1)
Friday night at the Ogden Theatre, three classic-rock radio-stars teamed up to give Denver what was in essence an early Christmas present from the ’80s — a hit-heavy mixtape from the decade of synth with a few holiday classics sprinkled throughout.
The Jingle Bell Rock Tour featured John Cafferty and Edgar Winter alongside Eddie Money, the ostensible headliner, in an evening unofficially dedicated to back-to-back guitarist solos, the glory days and this most wonderful time of the year.
Though Money was the last on the mic, it was an abbreviated set by any headliner’s standards, stepping off stage after about 40 minutes, encore included. While this undoubtedly left some of the audience in the cold, the songs he did play were essentials, those five or so (“Take Me Home Tonight,” “Two Tickets To Paradise,” “Shakin,” etc.) that grace each of his multitude of compilation discs.
The word wasn’t so much “disappointment” as it was “efficient,” or maybe “karaoke,” as Money let the audience handle chorus duty for most of the night. Why the clemency? The ticket price had already been comp’d by a different performer. A man with less name recognition than Mr. Money, but no less of a contribution to the canon of Camaro-rattling tracks. That man was Edgar Winter, who, partway through John Cafferty’s first number (“Tough All Over”), strode onstage seemingly out of nowhere with a blistering saxophone solo and his shoulder-length, white mop of hair, like some sort of wayward sax-squatch. No hand went unclapped.
Winter held the stage for the better part of the night, reminding everyone of where they’d heard of him before. Ever heard the chorus, “Come on and take a free ride?” That was Edgar Winter. The synth-driven, Phish-popularized “Frankenstein?” Edgar Winter. How about the keytar, the ’80s’ answer to a question no one asked? Sort of! On “Frankenstein”: “Coming up with the idea of putting a strap on the keyboard made me first person in musical history to do this!” Cue mobile keyboard solo, the seeds of glam metal and a brave new world for keyboardists everywhere (for a couple of years).
There were jingle bells, too. Near the end of his set, Winter broke out “The Christmas Song,” with bare accompaniment, and Money’s encore brought both marquee openers back to the stage for a show-ending take on John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” Whether it was a red-and-green illumed John Cafferty, Eddie Money wishing everyone “Merry Christmas” repeatedly or Edgar Winter mid-solo looking not unlike a slimmed-down, off-season Santa Claus, it all felt like a delirious vision of some Christmas past, where this bill would’ve been the hottest ticket in town on the year. It was no sell out in 2012, but on Friday night, these ’80s legends turned back the clock and kick-started the holiday season for those in attendance.