• Tue. May 28th, 2024

Ron Keel Band at Vamp’d – The Metal Cowboy Rides Into Sin City One Last Time!

Ron Keel Band played Count’s Vamp’d on Friday, April 5, 2024, with support act Dierdre.

In the 1980s, Ron Keel arrived on the music scene with the band Steeler, featuring a young then-unknown Yngwie Malmsteen. He then rocked the world with his own band, Keel, releasing classic anthems and music videos including “The Right to Rock,” “Somebody’s Waiting,” and “Tears of Fire,” to name a few. When the music business changed, he reinvented himself from the ground up as a country singer, at times even making music that combined elements of a hard rock and a country approach. Following a Keel reunion that resulted in the 2010 album STREETS OF ROCK AND ROLL, Mr. Keel put together the Ron Keel Band, and has been recording and touring with them in recent years.

Ron Keel surprised the world with the announcement that the gigs at Vamp’d in Vegas and the Whisky-a-Go-Go in Hollywood would be his final Ron Keel Band performances. While the man has certainly rocked the world and earned a well-deserved retirement from the road, it’s definitely emotional for fans who’ve loved seeing this guy on the big and small stages alike. With Mr. Keel having been a Vegas resident for many years prior to relocating to South Dakota, he’s one of the performers I’ve seen the most, and I absolutely, positively would not miss this guy’s final outing on a live stage in Sin City. And what better place to have the show than Vamp’d, Las Vegas’ premier house for all things rock and roll?

Opening the set was Dierdre, from Arizona, who I was admittedly not familiar with prior to the gig. But I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there actually was a Keel connection here; her drummer is none other than classic Keel drummer Dwain Miller! I was certainly eager to see how this evening would begin…

…and put simply, the openers didn’t disappoint.

Dierdre Evans is certainly one of the most beautiful women to ever rock the Vamp’d stage, but she’s more than just a pretty face. She’s got a powerful voice and the ability to command a crowd and make fans out of any audience; she certainly had that effect on me! Dressed in all black and sporting a pair of spiked boots that would make even Gene Simmons piss himself in terror, this young lady certainly made an impression on the Vamp’d audience on this evening. I’d not heard of Dierdre prior to this show announcement, but apparently, she and her group have made several recordings already, and premiered several new ones live that’ll be on a forthcoming release. Her band of musicians, including two guitarists, and of course, former Keel drummer Dwain Miller, delivered the goods and then some. I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes on Dierdre through the coming years!

It had been years since the last time I saw Ron Keel perform, but this fan certainly missed the days when the 80s rock frontman resided in Sin City, playing a wide variety of venues and varieties of music. While I’m certainly most familiar with his 1980s Keel albums, I certainly have respect for other parts of the man’s career as well, even the era when he took on a country sound and reinvented himself from scratch. I admittedly am not overly familiar with the more recent Ron Keel Band material, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that the group did include Geno Arce on bass; he’s the man who replaced Kenny Chaisson in the last lineup of the group Keel. And while I admittedly wasn’t familiar with the other musicians in the group, I do know that Mr. Keel has a knack for surrounding himself with the best of the best. But what would this set consist of? More recent Ron Keel Band tunes? Classics from the band Keel? Some stuff from Steeler and his other projects?

It ended up being sort of an “all of the above” affair. And that’s a good thing.

The set (and believe me, it was a long and epic one!) ended up being divided into two pretty distinct halves, even featuring a great intro with Ron on stage singing a track with no band accompaniment! The first half of the show was mainly comprised of newer Ron Keel Band songs; I admittedly wasn’t familiar with a lot of these tunes, but they quickly won me over, rocking hard but also not shying away from the country-style elements that Mr. Keel began adopting in the 90s at times. I definitely have some homework to do after hearing these songs; there’s a lot of great stuff here, and this band expertly delivered the goods.

The second half of the show was the nostalgic one, which Ron jokingly claimed would be the one that the audience came to see. And while I certainly enjoyed the first set as well, these were the anthems that I was singing along to like the crazed rock fan that I am, including the covers of “Because the Night” and “Rock and Roll Outlaw,” plus Keel originals like “Somebody’s Waiting” and “Tears of Fire.” Dwain Miller even came back to the stage to play on a few cuts! We even got a surprise cover of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” Topping off the evening was an epic finale of Mr. Keel’s biggest hit and best known anthem, the title track to 1985’s THE RIGHT TO ROCK, for which he was joined by many guests, including Vegas’ own Carol-Lyn, Peter Summit Ross from Crashing Wayward (a band signed to Ron Keel’s company), Dierdre and her bandmates, and even a member of Cold Sweat (a group that also featured former Keel member Marc Ferrari). If you’re going to play your last Vegas show ever, you want to go out with a bang. Mr. Keel and company did just that. Strangely, Phil Soussan (Ozzy Osbourne, Last in Line) was in the audience but didn’t join the group for the epic finale.

I only have three minor criticisms with the otherwise excellent set:

-There were some rather surprising omissions when it came to Keel songs. One of the biggest surprises was not hearing “Speed Demon” (even though there was some talk between band members regarding the song). Another surprise was not hearing any songs from the 2010 STREETS OF ROCK AND ROLL album, including the title cut and “Does Anybody Believe,” as Geno Arce played on these.

-It had been stated by Ron Keel that three Steeler songs would be performed at the show, but we only got one. “Serenade” and “Cold Day in Hell” were listed at the bottom of the setlists on stage, but not performed! These songs are sacred to me as a rock fan, so not hearing them (again, despite them being listed on the setlists posted on the stage) was a disappointment.

-It had also been stated that there would be many special guests from the past days of Keel and Steeler, but there were none from these bands outside of old Keel drummer Dwain Miller (who’d played the opening set with Dierdre earlier in the evening). I was truly hoping to see drummer Mark Edwards from Steeler (I don’t think too many people are going to mind the fact that Rik Fox wasn’t in attendance), or guitarists Bryan Jay and Marc Ferrari from Keel, but no such luck on that front.

This was a bittersweet night, knowing Ron Keel will likely never play a live gig in Las Vegas again, but he and his bandmates went out in fine form, playing classic and current cuts with an unrivaled ferocity, wowing this audience from start to finish, going out in style. And in the form of Dierdre, we have a rising talent well worth watching. When I rank my top shows of 2024, there’s a pretty good bet this one will land squarely in the top five. I don’t know what Mr. Keel has planned after coming off the road, but I wish him the best whatever the future may hold.

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Photos by Courtney Ware for ZrockR Magazine 2024. All Rights Reserved.

By Taylor T Carlson

Taylor T Carlson Assistant Editor/Senior Staff Writer Taylor T. Carlson was born August 17, 1984, and has called the Vegas Valley home his entire life. A die-hard fan of classic rock and metal music, Taylor has been writing album and concert reviews since he was 16 years old, and continues to do so, having done well over 1,000 reviews. He is also a fan of video gaming and cinema, and has reviewed a number of games and films as well, old and new alike. His thorough and honest (some would say brutally honest) reviewing style has won him the respect of hundreds of music fans and musicians alike, both local and abroad, and the ire of just as many others. Despite being one of the youngest attendees at classic hard rock/metal shows around Vegas, he is also one of the most knowledgeable, having gained the unofficial nickname of “The Eddie Trunk of Las Vegas.” In addition to reviews, Taylor has written and self-published three books on classic hard rock bands, and is a regular participant in rock and roll trivia contests. Taylor also holds a masters degree in special education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), and has appeared on the hit History Channel television series Pawn Stars. His dream is to be able to one day make a living from writing music books and reviews.

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