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The Fellows from The Firm

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by Stephen Williams

Let's all try to think of a reason why The Firm exists.

Give up?

Try profit. The Firm is making money on its debut album, titled "The Firm", and its single, "Radioactive", which was at No. 57 on the Billboard charts last week. Not exactly burning up, but respectable pull for a group made up of an ex- Led Zeppelin and an ex- Bad Company man.

Which is essentially the problem here. It's in the material.

There were flashes of lightning, but the 2 hour set from these guys on Monday was dullsville. Boring, monotonous, about as much fun as watching the 6:13 to Babylon pull out of Penn Station.

This you would not expect from Jimmy Page, guitar extraordinaire, and Paul Rodgers, a singer with lungs of gold but a penchant for picking the wrong material. And when each song sounds like the next- and none of them sounds real good- the night, even a 2 hour night, goes on forever.

We're told that The Firm had its genesis about two years ago when Rodgers, trying to emerge from the shadows of Bad Company and a failed solo album, hooked up with Page, who'd been relatively quiet since the breakup of Led Zeppelin in 1980. Page had been the mainspring of Zeppelin, the lead as well as the lead guitar, the architect of Zeppelin's tense style, the functional force behind it's sweep to supergroup status and, above all, a consummate technician and disciplined, understated artist.

As far as the crowd at the three quarter full Garden was concerned, it was The Jimmy Page Show, and Rodgers, a veteran lead vocalist for Free and Bad Company, was lead appendage on Monday. Bad enough that the brunt of The Firm's material is leaden- only "Radioactive" sheds some sparks- but worse that Rodgers, who knows better, virtually ignores the melody of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling", which is further wrecked by drummer Chris Slade. Slade, who has worked with Manfred Mann and Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, actually plays a march in the middle of that number.

The Firm's fourth member is bassist Tony Franklin, who was recruited by Page (as was Slade) and who contributed the chunkiest solo of the evening, rattling his bass and his blond locks and the front rows into a frenzy.

But five minutes do not a concert make. Even Page's machinations- stumbling around with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, his bobbing head trailing puffs of smoke, he is the soul of presence- were practiced. Playing electronic feedback and making it "sing" only works in spurts, and rarely, and Page overdid it Monday.

What might have been magic between Page & Rodgers- and what they're obviously hoping for and someday may achieve with better songs- was mostly degenerate noise, beat-'em-over-the-head rock that leaves no lasting memories, save a headache.

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