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Danny Stag of Kingdom Come talks 30th anniversary tour

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When your debut album ships gold (a half-million in sales), you know you’re onto something.

Such was the case for Kingdom Come with their 1988 self-titled debut featuring the radio hit “Get It On.” Four original members of the band have reunited for a 30th anniversary tour with new lead vocalist Keith St. John, formerly of Montrose. Former front man and founding member Lenny Wolf has declined to participate but has given his blessing for the reunion.

The band is set to perform at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, NH, on October 21.

“It felt fantastic to get back together with these guys,” lead guitarist Danny Stag told me during an interview that took place two days before the tour’s first date in Seattle. “We’ve had a lot of laughs sharing stories from the old days. I have to admit there was a couple of them that I didn’t remember, which is not surprising given how long it’s been and how crazy those days were.”

Kingdom Come’s 1988 debut album was surrounded with intrigue even before the record was released. When the record’s first single “Get It On” was leaked to several influential radio stations, it generated instant buzz regarding the identity of the band members. When DJs began comparing the sound of the band to that of Led Zeppelin, fans believing a secret reunion of the rock behemoth’s surviving members had taken shape in the form of Kingdom Come flocked to order the album.

According to Stag, the Zeppelin comparisons were much ado about nothing, although he still cites them as the “greatest rock band ever” and The Rolling Stones as “the greatest rock and roll band ever.”

“There’s a difference,” Stag explained. “It kills me that people lump Led Zeppelin in with heavy metal bands. Listen to them. I’m sorry but they were not a metal band. They were a really heavy blues band. And the Stones play with humongous amounts of swing. They were a great rhythm and blues band.”

Stag’s lead guitar work helped set Kingdom Come apart from other late ‘80s metal bands, thanks to the blues influence easily detected in his solos. From the way he approaches a guitar solo to his attack and choice of notes, Stag is more interested in conveying emotion with his instrument than he is showing off any six-string athleticism.

“It doesn’t mean that I can’t play fast,” he laughed. “But that isn’t what motivates me. I’ve never been one of those ‘Watch this!’ kind of players. What I play is what has to come out.”

When Stag recently reunited for tour rehearsals with drummer James Kottak, rhythm guitarist Rick Steier, bassist Johnny B. Frank and new front man Keith St. John, it was apparent to him that the band’s chemistry had survived intact.

“That’s been the most rewarding part of this,” Stag said. “Discovering how quickly we sounded like us once we got into a room and started playing the songs. The first song we played was ‘Living Out of Touch.’ It’s a simple song which is part of the beauty of great rock and roll. It isn’t hard to play if you do it with the right emotion and attitude. We plugged in, started playing and instantly sounded exactly the same.”

Shortly after the first Kingdom Come album was released 30 years ago, the band was added to the 30-date “Monster of Rock” tour co-headlined by Van Halen and Scorpions. On June 25, 1988, the tour landed at Oxford Plains Speedway for a show that has gone down in Maine concert history as one of the wildest ever. Along with Metallica and Dokken, Kingdom Come performed before tens of thousands of fans during a dangerous lightning storm that Stag says he will never forget.

“There were two sets of scaffolding for that stage and they leapfrogged each other from city to city,” Stag recalls. “The stage itself was seven stories tall and the triangular light trusses were on cables.”

With thunderstorms threatening both the audience and musicians, a lengthy delay caused a near-riot with some audience members hurling chucks of broken asphalt toward the stage. With lightning illuminating the sky around the venue, the wind began blowing the light trusses back and forth above the members of Kingdom Come.

“I remember thinking that if it fell it would kill me,” Stag continued. “I kept watching it and positioned myself on the stage so that it would fall around me. I remember being very afraid that we would either be struck by lightning or shocked from the water on the stage. It was crazy.”

Stag says that it’s almost a miracle that Kingdom Come is together again 30 years after those heady platinum-selling days.

“I love these guys like brothers. It’s so fantastic to be back with them. We’ve been working hard in rehearsals and we’re ready to play.”

(Tickets and VIP meet-and-greet packages for Kingdom Come’s 30th anniversary tour, including the October 21 show at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, NH, are available at www.KingdomComeBand.com.)

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