You are currently browsing the archives for the REO Speedwagon category.
Classic Rock News And Views
May 10, 2013
Photos and Story by Scott A. Smith
Armed with loud guitars and aim-to-please set lists, Styx, REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent brought their Midwest Rock-N-Roll Express Tour screeching into the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., on May 8.
All three acts served their A-game to 10,000 cheering fans inside the darkened, great-sounding venue, assertively taking the stage for their respective moments in the multi-colored spotlights. The controversial Nugent’s evening-opening, high-gear set was the loudest of the three bands at an ear-popping 108 decibels, with the Motor City Madman’s guitar buzz-sawing its way through fan treasures “Wango Tango,” “Just What the Doctor Ordered,” “Hey Baby” and “Turn It Up.”
Underneath a cowboy hat and a headset microphone, Nugent playfully grimaced for the crowd and dropped F-bombs while discussing President Obama. In between the loud-as-a-jet-engine songs, the bold front-man also wagged a metaphorical middle finger to those who have criticized his hunting practices and mostly conservative viewpoints.
The on-going friendship between Nugent and his singer-rhythm guitarist, Derek St. Holmes, served as a spiritual and sonic anchor for Nugent’s set. St. Holmes, whose voice helped characterize Nugent’s original studio work, summoned well-balanced, rhythmic guitar shades while Nugent unleashed his speedy, lead-guitar fury on the Tulsa stage.
St. Holmes sounded excellent on the lead-vocal mic for the set’s highlight, a pulsating, hypnotic take of the prog-rockish “Stranglehold,” and a fun run-through of Nugent’s widescreen-esque “Great White Buffalo” acted as the note-perfect encore.
As pre-recorded music from The Who blasted from the sound system, Styx emerged from the stage curtain to dive straight into the hard-rock heaven that is “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights).” Commanding the stage with the night’s longest, most-energetic set, Styx threw fans a curveball by including the bouncy “Light Up” and the speed-demon fury of “Rockin’ the Paradise” in the up-tempo proceedings.
Guitarists Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young traded off impressive six-string attacks while bassist Ricky Phillips, keyboardist-singer Lawrence Gowan and drummer Todd Sucherman locked together for a bullet-proof foundation. Phillips slung low notes from his 5-string bass, while Gowan’s strong tenor led a rousing rendition of the early Styx hit, “Lady.”
Young’s assertive vocals marched through the stomping “Miss America,” while Shaw’s voice alternated between near-prayer quietness and full-throttle madman howl for an adrenalized “Renegade.” When it came time to begin the majestic “Come Sail Away,” Gowan playfully stitched together piano parts from Eric Clapton’s “Layla” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” before singing snippets of Pink Floyd, Queen and Led Zeppelin. Gowan then started the piano intro to “Come Sail Away,” which was answered by countless cell-phone lights and the small, yellowish flames from about 50 Bic lighters.
Show-closer REO Speedwagon rushed the stage for the Bo Diddly-flavored “Don’t Let Him Go,” with bassist Bruce Hall’s bass notes taking on a near-perfect sound quality as they emitted from the stage’s mighty sound system. Although they didn’t play quite as long as they did at the Tulsa Hard Rock in late February, the members of REO Speedwagon still had plenty of passion and, possibly, the best sound quality of the night.
REO drummer Bryan Hitt pounded out each song’s beats without overplaying, and guitarist Dave Amato wailed away on the solo breaks. Hall later launched into a 60-second bass solo before standing center-stage to sing rock’s greatest love-them-and-leave-them tale, the always-wonderful “Back on the Road Again.”
Letting his rock-and-roll preacher persona fly with grinning pride, REO front-man Kevin Cronin also was in winning shape. When seen in person, Cronin’s rhythm guitar efforts are more aggressive than one might believe. His piano playing, as heard on “Roll with the Changes” and “Keep On Loving You,” hasn’t diminished a bit.
The same can be said for REO’s keyboardist Neal Doughty. Setting up camp with his Hammond organ and keyboards at stage right, Doughty played all the right mid-range notes, trading solo breaks hot potato-style with Amato’s adventurous, edgy guitar playing.
Sure, in some people’s eyes it might be more “hip” to dig The Black Keys these days, but with the Styx/REO/Nugent tour stacking up hit songs and FM diamonds by the train car, it’s impossible not to soak in the still-great sounds from these three rock icons. In all fairness, Black Keys singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach is a worthy talent, but we all know that Sucherman and Hitt both could out-drum Black Keys drummer (and perpetual insult-hurler) Patrick Carney with both hands tied behind their backs.
February 27, 2013
Photos & Story by Scott Smith
A power ballad-filled reputation often tails REO Speedwagon like merciless paparazzi, yet the Illinois-borne quintet is so much more than a metaphorical jukebox crammed with love songs.
The popular rock band blazed through a well-paced set Feb. 23 at a packed Tulsa Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, balancing must-play hit singles with pounding, lengthy passages that allowed lead singer Kevin Cronin, lead guitarist Dave Amato, bassist Bruce Hall, keyboardist Neal Doughty and drummer Bryan Hitt to stretch their flexible musical chops. Like Fleetwood Mac, REO Speedwagon gains more grit in the concert setting, giving songs like “Take It on the Run” and even “Keep On Loving You” a harder, rock-fueled edge.
A positive, encouraging vibe radiated from the group to the audience and vice versa, with the Buddy Holly-esque rhythms of “Don’t Let Him Go” arriving in the set first. Cronin showed his voice to be strong while playing rhythm guitar and piano, and his rock-and-roll preacher persona was in full-throttle gear. His between-song banter had charm, and his energy kept his busy feet shuffling from stage left to stage right and back.
Sometimes criticized — unfairly — by a few fans, Amato displayed the ultimate team-player attitude, tackling his guitar solos with a fun vengeance but tastefully toning down his riffs during Cronin’s singing passages. When Cronin put his arm around Amato’s neck near the end of “Roll With the Changes,” Amato laughed before singing terrific, high-harmony parts.
Doughty supplied fantastic B3 Hammond organ parts, crucial piano lines and occasional washes of synthesizer, while Hall stepped up to the microphone for an absolutely gripping version of 1979′s “Back on the Road Again.” Hall’s voice, miraculously, sounded even better than it did on the studio original, and his pre-song bass solo was fluid, flooring long-time fans.
“Did Bruce sing ‘Back on the Road Again’ originally?” asked one fan. “Yeah, he did,” answered the man next to him. “Wow, I never knew that,” said the fan. “That’s really cool.”
REO’s Tulsa gig wasn’t just a rock concert. It was a revival that not only celebrated REO’s back catalog, but it addressed the freedoms and responsibilities that co-exist in the United States. Cronin told the audience he felt blessed to live in a country where he can express himself openly. He also said he greeted other people’s opinions and interests with an open mind.
Well, almost everyone else. Cronin took a playful jab at frequent touring partner Ted Nugent, saying he and Detroit’s Motor City Madman had an on-going difference of opinion on what song is rock’s greatest ballad.
“Whenever we tour with Ted, he introduces one song as the No. 1 love song of all time,” said a smiling Cronin before several audience members laughed. “Ted says that right before he plays ‘Cat Scratch Fever.’”
At that moment, Amato emerged from the shadows, mimicking the song’s instantly recognizable guitar intro before silencing his instrument and smiling.
“Hey, is Ted here?” Cronin asked jokingly. “Oh no, that’s Dave. Dave played with Ted for many years and he knows all about Ted. Yes, and REO is actually touring again with Ted and Styx in the spring.” (The three will play Tulsa’s BOK Center on May 8.)
In Tulsa, REO showed that alternative rock-loving naysayers could be wrong about Midwestern-style rock. Hipsters keep telling the world that it’s cooler to like The Black Keys over so-called “corporate bands” like REO, Styx and Journey, yet when REO unleashed the one-two punch of “Time for Me To Fly” and “Back on the Road Again” near the end of the Tulsa concert, REO proved the haters wrong — dead wrong. No matter what your musical tastes and biases might be today, if your body doesn’t move and your face doesn’t smile the very second the first chorus of “Time for Me To Fly” happens, you have no heart. Or soul. Or pulse.
March 2, 2009
Hoping to compete for the attention of classic rock fans this summer, three well-known groups are teaming up for what is being called a “budget-priced tour.” That’s good news for some concert goers who have to weigh their desire to see their favorite classic groups with the associated costs during tough economic times.
Concert tickets are not generally known for their bargain status these days, with some shows demanding $100 and up for good vantage points away from the far reaches of the nose-bleed sections.
The classic rock trio will start in Albuquerque, NM on May 13th and take them through 30 shows in 30 cities around the U.S. They will wrap up after two months on the road with a final performance in St. Louis on July 11th, making for a shorter outing than the recently-announced Def Leppard/Poison /Cheap Trick tour which starts a month later but does not conclude until September.
Ticket prices are said to be as low as the $13.50 range, with Styx veteran Tommy Shaw reporting that the low prices are “our own personal Rock ‘n’ Roll Stimulus package.”
As part if the lead-up to the summer tour, Shaw and REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin collaborated on a new single entitled “Can’t Stop Rockin’.” The new track is scheduled to start airing on radio stations sometime this month.
Cronin, speaking a little bit about the difficult and unusual times we are going through currently said, “The world is going through a weird phase, and everybody needs music now more than ever. We all need to join our friends, pool our resources, combine our energies, because there is power in people coming together. That spirit has brought REO and Styx together to write, record and tour together, and celebrate it all with the greatest fans in America.”
Some of that may be the typical hype you might hear from someone about to embark on a tour, but I think he makes a good point about the need for music and the power of people coming together. These are strange times, and it seems that family and friends may be the only things that can be counted upon these days, and music offers many fans an escape – if only temporary – from the madness we are seeing around us lately.