Plenty of Free promised as Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers tours the UK

If you were fortunate enough to be at one of Bad Company’s UK gigs last year, the chances are you will have already bought your tickets.

Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers is back in the UK again for 2011, only this time he’s solo - a format which will enable him to draw on the entirety of his remarkable back catalogue.

Most rock stars are content with just the one great band in their time. Paul can count no fewer than four.

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He kicked off with Free, got into Bad Company, was a member of The Firm and then

toured and recorded with Queen from 2004-2008.

But then again, maybe that’s no more than you’d expect from the man his fans dub “the voice”.

“We had a great time with Bad Company last year,” says Paul. “The audience were great throughout the tour. But with Bad Company, I felt that it was important that we played only the Bad Company catalogue. That’s who we were.

“But I know that the music from Free is dear to a lot of people’s hearts.”

Which is why he’s promising a Free-heavy set list for those catching him on his latest tour, which includes dates in Bournemouth (BIC, April 24) and London’s Royal Albert Hall (April 27).

As ever, you can expect Paul’s trademark interactivity and closeness with the audience - one of the things that made those Bad Company gigs in 2010 so special. Shooting Star, with its wonderful light show, brought the house down.

“I do like to feel that the audience are very much part of it. There is so much entertainment available that I like the concerts to be interactive in a way. The idea that you are not just sitting there watching whoever makes a difference.”

And it makes a difference to the performer too.

“It brings me back to my very early days when I first went to see concerts in my home town. They were club dates really. We used to see bands like Cream and The Who. It was a great atmosphere, and that’s what I like to create, that kind of feeling. I am very passionate about what I do.”

And it’s what drives him on: “It’s five or six years since I toured the UK as a solo artist. Since then I have had Bad Company and Queen. Now this gives me the chance to put everything together, the songs that I did with Free, Bad Company and The Firm. And also new work. I am in the studios working on demos and writing furiously and really enjoying myself. The last time I was in a studio was with Queen doing The Cosmos Rocks. It’s nice to be able to download all the ideas that I have had since.”

It’s certainly been an astonishing journey.

“When I first met and played with Koss (Paul Kossoff, 1950-1976, Free guitarist), I was in a club in London and there was a magic between us right away. He got up and jammed with the band that I was in at the time. Prior to that we had not looked at each other. As soon as we played, it was a given that we were going to form a band.

“I loved his playing. We used to listen to a lot of people. I used to listen to people like John Lee Hooker and B B King. One of the things that they did was that they used to sing and then answer with the guitar. It was like a question and answer going on, and that’s what we did.

“But one of the great things about Koss’ playing was that he was very very simple. Every note he played was wrenched from his soul. There was nothing extraordinary - just wrenched from his soul. He was funny. He was a great guy. He was quite a comedian and he used to do all the driving with the band. We did thousands and thousands of miles up and down the M1.”

Sadly, Koss’ wasn’t to be a long life, dead at the age of 25. He succumbed to drug-related heart problems on a flight from Los Angeles to New York on March 19 1976.

As Paul says, maybe these days rehabilitation could have saved him: “I regret we lost him. After the band split up, we all went our separate ways and he seemed to get very depressed and everything. I was not there at the time.”

For Paul, the next step was Bad Company, in some ways a progression from Free: “One of the things I learnt from Free was that we had tried to manage ourselves and it became impossible. One of the things I decided was that with the next band we would have a great manager.”

Key to Bad Company was also meeting up with Mick Ralphs: “We started to share ideas. He played me Can’t Get Enough. I played him Rock Steady.

“We were scrabbling around looking for a name for the band. It’s very important. You have got to have a name that you can live with. We would ring each other up and say a word, whatever it was. One day, I just called him and said ‘Bad Company’. I heard a noise. He’d dropped the phone. And that was it.”

By then, Paul had actually written the song Bad Company: “We were the first band to have a song named after the band.”

They were all set for an amazing time: “We had all the accolades we could ever want. We were off to a flying start. We were straight into the arenas. We were properly managed and we were properly equipped.”

So how did Paul manage to keep his feet on the ground when so many others so famously didn’t?

“For a while, I didn’t,” he admits. “I overindulged and got a little bit crazy. It got to the point where I had to step back. We were spending so much time on tour that I was not seeing my family growing up. I was missing birthdays and first days at school, and so I pulled back from Bad Company.”

But it’s all long since slipped back into perspective, with Paul particularly enjoying the opportunities his solo career now brings him.

“My music has taken me out of my home town and around the world. I have been very fortunate.”