The Soulful Classic Rock Experience of the Rogue Suspects
The Rogue Suspects truly are local celebrities for this region; they’ve been going strong for more than two decades, and they’re not bashful when it comes to listing their many credits and accolades. They’ve won several awards for their talents, opened for big names in the business such as James Brown, and had the honor of being the band behind great artists such as Bo Diddley during a regional show.
The Rogue Suspects come in various forms, whether it’s the full band, “Rogue Suspects Lite,” or “The Girls” with Rogue Suspects, when three female vocalists front the band’s covers. Whatever form they take, they are absolutely dazzling; there are many strong talents up on that stage all at once with the full ensemble. They tend to perform in rather beautiful outdoor venues (Grizzly Peak Winery in Ashland and Lake of the Woods Resort in Klamath Falls just to name a couple). Typically, there are big dance floor spaces at their events and pre-COVID, they were crowded, but even their summer concerts this year were able to accommodate those that wanted to move to the music. For example, people were dancing socially-distanced style on the huge lawn space around the performers at Grizzly Peak Winery to the point where they looked like part of a planned music video for “Love the One You’re With,” which the band was playing at the time. That song’s lyrics sure take on new meaning in the year 2020 with quarantines and travel restrictions affecting so many.
Some of my favorite performances by this band are in those outdoor settings where the combined effect of nature’s beauty with the power of the passionate musical delivery and the crowd’s response to it seem to heighten the experience beyond what a standard indoor venue could provide. The Girls’ impassioned rendition of “Don’t Let Go” with the band at dusk in July of this year is a prime example of this. The ladies on stage were dressed exquisitely in shiny attire and strappy sandals. They really got into the song with their body movements as well as their vocal prowess, responding to each others’ performances. Their seemingly improvised parts are magical; they take turns playing off one another with unique vocal embellishments that blend nicely together. Also noteworthy is electric guitarist Dirk Price’s solo – very strong, polished and clear. The song has a soothing finish as the band slows down and grows quiet in the last refrain.
I noted while watching the youtube video of the band’s outdoor performance covering Prince’s “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore,” that in their particular version, there’s call and response between the main vocalist, Shae Celine, and guitarist Price; their fevered trills practically match each other perfectly in pitch and timbre. There’s also some ad lib with spoken parts by vocalists Jennifer Davis and Celine, making this a unique version of a heavily covered song.
The bass guitarist, Greg Frederick, has a humorous way of howling his approval of Celine’s vocal phrasing during a performance of “If You Want Me To Stay,” performed by Rogue Suspects Lite, but it’s Price who provides very effective backing vocals during performances of “One Thing,” when he lends light vocal support during the chorus that gently accentuates Celine’s phrasing, and “Come Together,” when he growls out supporting vocals at one point and then joins his bandmates in practically whispering the words “over me” as they finish the chorus.
All of the band members “have been active in the fundraising for regional nonprofits and activities associated with raising social awareness of diversity in the community” according to their website roguesuspects.com. One of the vocalists, Jade Chavis, just before a performance of “Livin’ For the City,” calls out to “white allies,” thanking them for “standing up for the people of color in this society. We need you.” The audience of course responds with great love and appreciation for this, showing they need this band too by professing their thankfulness for them and all they represent.
Rogue Suspects will be performing at Roxyann Winery in Medford on Fri. Dec. 11 at 6 pm.