First Council Hotel & Casino
November 6, 2015
Don’t Let Him Go | Music Man | Take it On the Run | Keep Pushin’ | In Your Letter | Can’t Fight This Feeling | That Ain’t Love | Tough Guys | Golden Country | Time for Me to Fly | Back On the Road Again | Roll with The Changes
Keep on Loving You | Ridin’ the Storm Out | Stranglehold | Listen to Her Heart
Words by Jeb Wright
Photo by Mark Schierholz @ http://www.lightningdadphoto.com/
REO Speedwagon is one of those bands with a set list that is filled with nothing but hit after hit after hit—and every night, because of time constraints and song rotation, they still have to leave a few favorites out!
On this night, in tiny old Newkirk, Oklahoma, the band shocked the crowd with not one but two remakes! Let’s back up a moment… long time REO guitarist Dave Amato spent some time in the ‘80s singing and playing rhythm guitar for Ted Nugent, so when REO took on the Nugent classic “Stranglehold” everyone went wild.
REO playing Nugent? No way? WAY! In fact, Davey did a fine job of cranking it up and cranking it out. This was, however, to be followed by another remake. At the end of “Stranglehold” REO’s front man/vocalist/rhythm guitarist/songwriter Kevin Cronin bounced across the stage and made sure each band member knew the show was not over. At the end of the classic Nugent song the band went directly into the Tom Petty classic “Listen to Her Heart.” Hearing REO playing other people’s songs onstage was really cool. They knocked ‘em both out of the park (I would know, I am from the Kansas City area--Go Royals!) and had the entire crowd smiling ear-to-ear as they wrapped up the concert with a musical reprise of “Ridin’ the Storm Out” after the Petty tune… Quite the unique medley.
The band may be guilty of not changing their set up on most nights, but this was totally unexpected! The rest of the set was more the usual thing one would expect. REO Speedwagon delivers their hits with a lot of energy and a lot of smiles. The audience can’t help but get fired up when they are listening to classic songs such as “Music Man,” “Keep Pushin’” and “Time for Me to Fly” being performed by guys who totally love to play in front of a live audience. Sure, this band could go through the motions; they know the songs well, and could play them in their sleep. They still have the fire and passion for music to give it their all, night after night.
For fans of REO’s most successful album, this was a good night as well as they pulled out five tunes from the album Hi Infidelity. Predictably, the best received were “Keep on Loving You” and “Take it on the Run,” but “Tough Guys” and “Don’t Let Him Go” always go over well. “In Your Letter” was introduced by emcee Cronin with one of his longwinded but funny stories—this one about Neal Doughty’s wife leaving him for the band’s dealer. Neal said he was sure going to miss that guy (insert ND rim shot here!).
“Roll with The Changes” is just a great song. EVERYTHING that made ‘70s rock great is in that song. It has a great guitar solo, a great organ solo, a positive message and tons of energy. If you sit in your seat bored when this song is trotted out, then your ears don’t work and your heart has grown cold... bitterly cold. The emotional moment of the evening came when Kevin Cronin spoke of REO’s recently departed co-founding member and lead guitarist Gary Richrath. Fans of the band know of the strained relationship Gary and some of the guys in the group had at times in the past. Cronin introduced “Golden Country” giving Richrath a huge tribute for both the music he created and his rock star persona, even admitting Gary taught him a lot about being in a band!
At the end of the day this was another classic concert by REO. As time marches on, REO Speedwagon reminds me of a time when music was truly important and not just an excuse to party. REO blurred the lines between hard rock and pop hits, as for every hard rocker like “Back on the Road Again” there was a softer track like “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” Each style has its own purpose, and each style attracts a different kind of fan. The result is a huge audience for REO Speedwagon.
This is one band that continues to keep pushing, even though at this stage of the game they really don’t have to. I, for one, however, am glad they do!