I've seen REO Speedwagon so many times that when Kevin Cronin and company take the stage, they probably look out at the crowd and say, "Not that guy again." (Is it because I always dance like a 2-year-old when you play Tough Guys? I'll stop.)
REO was the headliner/free concert at '80s Night at Tropicana Field here in St. Petersburg. I know the guys might not like being pegged as an '80s act, but they were in great moods and happily featured most of the tunes from 1980's Hi Infidelity on Saturday afternoon to honor its 30th anniversary (or 31st. Whatever). Among the rarities we got: In You Letter and Someone Tonight, two songs I've never heard them play live.
IN ATTENDANCE: It looked like most of the crowd on hand to watch the Rays beat the Angels in extra innings stuck around. Cheap Trick's Robin Zander -- who lives in Tampa Bay -- was in attendance. Cronin actually introduced himself as Zander. Too bad Robin didn't jump on stage for a tune. This was easily the closest I've been to the stage at any REO show. It made all the difference. (It also made it the loudest REO show I've ever been to.)
THE MUSIC: I've been to enough REO shows to know they've slowed down their songs by a half-beat or so. It works great for tunes like Take It On The Run, giving it an "up yours!" feeling instead of the "eeyore" version that is featured in the studio recording. It doesn't work as well on tunes like Tough Guys and Don't Let Him Go. And Son of a Poor Man has become a set regular in recent years, a nod to their early years. It feels as pure as it did decades ago.
THE BAND: Gigs in Tampa Bay are always special for Cronin, because his wife's family lives up in Spring Hill (and were right there in the front by the stage). Kevin's 59 years old now. Bassist Bruce Hall (with the band since '77) is 57. Guitarist Dave Amato is 58. And keyboardist Neal Doughy (the sole remaining founding member) is 64. I only report their ages because when you look at the band members in JumboTron at a stadium, well ... I'm just glad I don't have to be on JumboTron.
Nah, they looked good and had plenty of energy -- especially Cronin who raced around the entire field during an extended jam of Back on the Road Again. More energy than Zander, who snuck away with his family during Roll With the Changes. I can't blame him, and followed him right out. It just felt like I was in good company.
Great show, guys. And great "get" by the Rays to book this classic '80s (sorry) act for the first Summer Concert Series show of 2011.
REO SPEEDWAGON SETLIST FOR '80s NIGHT
* Don't Let Him Go
* Keep On Loving You
* In Your Letter
* Someone Tonight
* Tough Guys
* Take It On The Run
* Keep Pushin'
* Can't Fight This Feeling
* Son of a Poor Man
* Time For Me To Fly
* Back On The Road Again
* Roll With The Changes
* Ridin' The Storm Out
Posted by Steve Spears at 9:37:42 am on May 01, 2011