A fixture on 1980’s MTV, Cinderella shot to stardom on the strength of several singles from their 1986 debut album, Night Songs, and its followup, Long Cold Winter.
Though Cinderella are no longer a going concern, their frontman Tom Keifer continues to keep the legacy alive with his solo band. He visits Honeywell Center in Wabash on Saturday, Aug. 12, with special guest, former Mötley Crüe singer John Corabi.
Playing the hits
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12
275 W. Market St., Wabash
$25-$115 · (260) 563-3272
Keifer has released two critically acclaimed solo albums, 2013’s The Way Life Goes and 2019’s Rise, but it’s his work with Cinderella that fuels the demand for his live shows. On a normal night, Keifer’s setlist contains about 75 percent Cinderella material mixed with a couple tracks from each of the solo albums, leaving audiences satisfied from hearing the hits and maybe a bit curious about some of the new songs they heard along the way.
Cinderella songs like “Shake Me,” “Nobody’s Fool,” and “Somebody Save Me” are setlist staples, but when asked why those songs still seem to resonate with his audience and why he is obligated to play them each night, Keifer told Whatzup he really was not sure.
“It’s hard to figure out why they even resonated in the first place,” he said. “If someone could bottle that up, they would make a fortune. We were fortunate that they did though. I guess it touches upon emotions, but I don’t know. Music is an amazing thing.”
Even through those successful early stages of his career, Keifer said he likely never thought he would still be performing.
“I guess I hoped I would,” he said. “When it comes to something that you enjoy, you don’t want to see that come to an end.”
When the grunge movement extinguished the ’80s hard rock flame, Keifer said it did feel like it was the end.
“What I didn’t imagine though, after being that low, is that it would kind of circle back around,” he said. “I had quite a few great tours with Cinderella starting again in ’98. I think we did eight or nine tours between ’98 and when I started with my solo band.”
When Cinderella went on indefinite hiatus following the last of those tours, Keifer formed a new band. It’s been a decade since he released his first solo album, and the musicians on that album have, for the most part, remained with him.
“When that record was released, I kind of needed a shot in the arm,” Keifer said. “It reinvigorated me because it was almost like starting over, playing in small clubs, and working our way up to where we are playing much larger rooms now.”
An earlier brush with a possible career change came in 1991 when Keifer was diagnosed with partial paralysis of his left vocal cord. He initially was told that he would never sing again.
“The condition I have is not a curable condition,” he said.
After several surgeries and vocal coaches were hired to help his rehabilitation, he still struggled to regain form.
“There was a good 20 years where it was very rocky and up and down,” he said.
In 2009, Keifer met a vocal coach that made all the difference. He taught Keifer an old opera technique that helped him to maximize what voice he had left.
“He taught me how to really use my full body support and air support,” he said. “The last 10 years I’ve been working that technique over and over and over, and it’s just gotten better and better. I’d say most nights it’s as strong and sometimes stronger than it was before.”
Sticking to the formula
It’s that gritty, raw voice that is so important to the songs and initially helped Cinderella stand out. But Keifer’s guitar playing was also a big part of the magic and he has been criminally under-recognized for it.
He said he doesn’t think much about that because he views himself as a singer-songwriter first, just one that chooses to expresses that craft in the form of hard rock.
“When I write songs, usually the lyric and the melody come first, then I add the guitar to it, so it’s kind of all one thing for me,” he said. “I would say my focus in the show though is primarily singing, because that is, more than anything, what delivers the song. The emotion, the lyric, and everything. And obviously, with the voice issues I’ve had, I have to be focused on that.”
If you haven’t seen him with his solo band, Keifer said you shouldn’t expect much of a contrast with how he performed with Cinderella. He still straps on a guitar and plays it loud through a Marshall amp in unison with a band that brings a consistent, high-energy performance.
“Both bands are great,” he said when asked to compare them. “I loved touring with Cinderella and making records with them. I’m very proud of what we did and accomplished as a band, but in 2013, it was kind of time for something new. Musically, this band is incredible. We have a very good chemistry on and off stage and they just bring it.”
Keifer said he is eternally grateful to still able to make a living by playing music and gives all the credit to where he thinks it belongs.
“It’s the fans who make that happen,” he said. “I can’t believe they still come out and song those songs every night. Every word. I feel very blessed and fortunate and I thank them every night.”