Photos by Lou Montesano
Simon Kirke, founding drummer for a pair of beloved 1970s rock bands, has been back on the music scene this summer in a big way. After wrapping up a Bad Company tour with long-time mate Paul Rodgers, Kirke almost immediately set out on a series of club dates to promote his upcoming CD, All Because Of You. Accompanying Kirke on his solo efforts are the Empty Pockets, a Chicago band that has been gaining traction beyond their home market by opening for and playing with some big-name acts.
Taking the stage at the Cutting Room in front of fans, friends and music industry insiders, Kirke came out of the gate strong with Bad Company’s “Movin’ On” and didn’t look back. Stepping out from behind the kit, he finger-picked an acoustic guitar on some of his newer songs and reprised “Feel Like Makin’ Love” on ukulele. There were lots of special guests in the house eager to join Simon on stage. Song-writing partner Rob Taube played guitar, Jon Graboff took a turn on pedal steel and a bevy of female singers added vocal support.
Part of the reason so many friends were on hand, Kirke’s girlfriend Maria shared, was that Simon was celebrating a birthday. After closing the set with Free’s “All Right Now,” one of the ultimate FM radio standards in its day and ever since, the party was just getting started. Country star Reba McEntire sang Simon a birthday ballad, after which songwriter Mark Hudson summoned guitarists, drummers and singers in the room for an impromptu jam session.
Worthy of mention are the Empty Pockets, a tight and soulful quartet who are much more than just a backing band. They are credited as Kirke’s writing partners on the new album and have their own songs and their own sound. With Josh Solomon on guitar and vocals and Erika Brett on keyboards and vocals, they tend toward lighter pop melodies but managed to cover the harder-rocking Bad Company tunes without dropping a beat.
—Peter Jurew & Lou Montesano