REO Speedwagon Continues to Roll With The Changes

By on July 23, 2021

(Photo-Randy Cook)

REO Speedwagon rolled into town for a near sold out performance at Ruth Eckerd Hall on July 21, 2021. Fans were treated to a night of rocking remembrance as the band touched upon several of their releases and of course played their still to this day radio popular anthemic hits.

(Photo-Randy Cook)

Surprisingly for as much as I like this band and have followed them throughout their career that has spanned longer than I have been alive, this was my first time seeing them live. For me, it is a little hard to fathom that REO Speedwagon’s debut album was released 50 years ago, and while the band went through a few personnel changes in the early years, the current line-up has been together and touring for over 30 years.

(Photo-Randy Cook)

For the nostalgic among us, I think it is interesting to note that REO Speedwagon’s hit ‘Take It on the Run’ was the ninth video ever played on MTV back in 1981. They had eight different songs play within the station’s first 200 videos, including another of their monster ballad hits ‘Keep on Loving You’ which was the first Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit to be played on MTV. So it is no surprise that the band has a very strong fan base that continues to this day. 

As with every show I go to I take interest in the makeup of the age demographics in the crowd and it was not unexpected that this was a multi-generational crowd given a career that spans five decades. Not to mention the band’s inclusion into the Rock Band video game series which opened them up to a whole new, younger generation of fans.

(Photo-Randy Cook)

The opening act was a country trio named Levon out of Nashville. They put on a spirited performance and certainly had the attention of the crowd based on reactions after each song. The blend of perfect harmonic vocals between their three members they could have been an a cappella group and would have sounded just as good without the backing music. I would certainly be interested to see them playing a plugged in set.

(Photo-Randy Cook)

As the lights dimmed and show time was upon us there was a brief moment, a hushed silence of eager anticipation upon the crowd but as soon as those first notes hit our ears the crowd was up on their feet and engaged as the band launched into ‘Music Man’ to open their set. 

(Photo-Randy Cook)

Singer Kevin Cronin was very engaging with the crowd talking between songs and showing appreciation to the fans. He acknowledged that without the fans, there would be no REO Speedwagon. While his vocal range may not be what it once was, and while he certainly encouraged us fans to sing along, in no way did he need us to carry the tunes. He mentioned how nice it was to finally be at a real live rock n roll show after so many months as rock and roll will keep you young forever.

The set list touched upon eight different releases and played heavily from my personal favorite, Hi Infidelity. Even as the centerpiece of the band Kevin was happy to share the spotlight with lead guitarist Dave Amato and bassist Bruce Hall, weaving back and forth between the three of them front and center stage. Lead vocal duties were shared with Bruce on their classic ‘Someone Tonight’ which then segued perfectly into their first big hit of the night ‘Take It on the Run’.

(Photo-Randy Cook)

As the set list progressed throughout the night it was apparent just how much fun the band was having engaging and interacting with the crowd. Once their more popular hits came along it was a literal sing along between the band and the audience. Kevin dedicated ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ to anyone affected by the love bug and it was quite apparent from what I saw that many couples in the crowd considered that ‘their song’ and there was some slow dancing in the isles occurring.

(Photo-Randy Cook)

This was a very sentimental show for me, as I recall being a youngster in middle school in the early 80s and I idolized (the late) Gary Richrath and his guitar playing style after seeing the band’s videos on MTV. I would use my tennis racket and air guitar the band’s gushing love songs, singing my heart out into an invisible microphone to the cute girl from my math class who had no idea I was even alive. From the faces I saw in the crowd, I was not alone in my trip down memory lane throughout every song played this evening.

(Photo-Randy Cook)

As always, my compliments to the sound crew, every show I have ever seen at Ruth Eckerd Hall the sound was spectacular and the band was spot on in their musical timing (thirty years playing together will do that). It was a most excellent show, I highly enjoyed the experience and I encourage anyone who is a fan that has not seen this band live to do so before it is time for them to fly off into retirement.

 REO Speedwagon is:

Neal Doughty – keyboards
Kevin Cronin – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards
Bruce Hall – bass, backing and lead vocals
Dave Amato – lead guitar, backing vocals
Bryan Hitt – drums

(Photo-Randy Cook)

Setlist:

Music Man
Keep Pushin’
Don’t Let Him Go
Someone Tonight
Take It on the Run
That Ain’t Love
Tough Guys
Can’t Fight This Feeling
Son of a Poor Man
Golden Country
Like You Do
Time for Me to Fly
Back on the Road Again
Ridin’ the Storm Out

Encore: Keep On Loving You
Roll With the Changes

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