REO Speedwagon Show Review
REO Speedwagon Show Review 06/29/08
By Barbara Fara
President/CEO of MusicIncider.com
REO Speedwagon has been together for nearly 40 years, and that is amazing for a band that has gone through at least three different lineups; through it all they have never given up on themselves. I requested to cover the REO Speedwagon show because I happen to love the band. If I could sing to you during this review, I would sing to you all their greatest hits, just as I am doing this very moment.
If I had one problem at the show, it was not with the band, but the venue: Chastain Park. I received the passes and the tickets and their PR was kind enough to also give me backstage access to meet the band. Well, I lose the photo pass because I was sweating underneath the rain slicker as the weather was a mess. Even though I had the email showing that I was granted the photo pass and backstage access and two comp tickets, what happen between the time REO went on and as Joan Jett was opening, the photo pass fell off someplace. The road manager was good enough to give me another photo pass, but as Chastain’s staff told me, I would have to give this photo pass back immediately after the shoot. When I told Chastain that their PR set me up with for a meet and greet, their response was “That is impossible, that would never happen.” I did not find my email proof until I got back into the car at the end of the night. My one wish out of the whole meet and greet was to get a photo with me and REO and sadly that never happened.
I must admit that for a band that has been together for 40 years I was pleasantly surprised they could fill a venue with a capacity of over 6900 seats. Everybody was not waiting for Joan Jett, they were waiting for REO. As REO headed onto the stage, the crowd went crazy. Their first song I believe was Push It Up, and the second song I know by heart – Heard It From a Friend. It brought back so many memories. The thing is, the band still performs like they did in the 70’s. When Chastain warns me not to block the audience while shooting - but the audience was so great, they worked with me to make sure I got the great shots I did. Despite the weather, people brought their picnic baskets filled with wine and goodies, ready for a good time. REO essentially gave a showcase where they covered everything from their earliest works to their very latest release. They did plenty of their classics and also mentioned that they would be doing stuff off their new album. This was a show that you have to call a true blue concert. My suggestion would be honestly to try to get them into bigger arenas; they would sell out in a minute. The house was packed and the lighting was beautiful. You’d think that the vocal range from the lead vocalist Kevin Cronin would change after 40 years, but it has not. He still has that “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” range that drove the crowd nuts.
What amazes me is that I have seen many older bands try to make comebacks at Chastain, but the only one that pulled it off as perfectly as REO was Neil Young. Even though it was pouring, the crowd came with their umbrellas, rain slicks, candles and everything, fully prepared to enjoy themselves no matter what. This is something that REO fans have been waiting for for years. When you take Kevin Cronin on rhythm and acoustic guitar, Dave Amato on lead guitar and the bass player Bruce Hall, they are perfectly in sync with each other. Their drummer, Bryan Hitt, he is one of the best drummers that I have EVER seen live since I have been in the music business. He really knows how to hammer on that kit and he does it with precision and pure ecstasy. It’s like his anger management tool; any frustrations he must have must go straight into that drum kit. Their keyboardist Neal Doughty – let’s just say that if REO are like the best meal that you could ever eat up at Cowtippers here in Atlanta then Neal is like the sweet potato side dish. And that is a compliment, because Cowtippers makes a damn good sweet potato, what with the cinnamon butter and all.
This show was a long one, around 3 hours; you could hear them almost three blocks from Chastain. I don’t think they expected to see that many fans. It was like the great rebirth of REO Speedwagon, like so many other arena bands from the past are trying to do, but REO pulled it off perfectly. The first time I heard REO Speedwagon, I was probably about 15 years old, and I fell in love. I must admit, for a band that has to be at least 10-15 years older than me, they looked like they were no more than 40, like they haven’t aged at all. I loved the fact that Kevin’s hair was died blond and cut short, it made him look like a rock god. He was wearing an Affliction T-shirt that really complimented him. But then again, the whole band was dressed beautifully. I recognized the Affliction t-shirt because I own several of them myself. Great minds dress alike. The same thing goes for Dave Amato, he looked fantastic. Their bassist, Bruce hall looked wonderful and energetic, drummer Bryan Hill looked no older than 35 and keyboardist Neil looked like he was having a great time as well. When you look at my shots I posted here and on Myspace, I couldn’t really get a clear shot of Neil, but you can tell he has taken good care of himself. You had families there with their kids who couldn’t understand why their mommies were jumping up and down. For many of these kids, this was probably their first concert watching their parents hold lighters in the air and singing along. Not exactly Spongebob live.
When you go to their show, the compass that graces their new album cover is sitting underneath the drum kit on stage. They are great marketers and know how to promote themselves, and most of all, they love their fans. Even if I had not been approved by their PR to cover the show, I still would have gone just to see this concert. The review of their new album will be coming up next and will be in the next issue of MusicIncider.com and also on our Myspace page, Facebook page, LinkedIn.com and Digg.com – look us up under Musicincider or Barb Fara.
My biggest disappointment again, was that even though I was able to photograph the first three songs, when I was done, Chastain officials looked at me like I had to leave. We were nicely pushed out of the gate by their management. I really believe that Chastain has to start respecting the media; hard copy or webzine. But the show itself went off with no problems at all. In the past three weeks, I have covered Type O Negative, Shinedown and many others, and I must admit - this is another band that should be nominated for a Grammy.
Here is my question – why hasn’t REO been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame? I am looking at the 2008 inductees: Madonna, The Dave Clark 5, Leonard Cohen, The Ventures, and John Mellencamp. I DO NOT SEE THE WORDS REO SPEEDWAGON. They are the creators of ballad rock music, and they should be given the respect they deserve and somebody better think about inducting them next year. You have every other hit maker that has ever been relevant, now it is time for REO to get their due. This band must have taken the hiatus that they needed to bring themselves to the point that they have created this masterpiece of a showcase. I cannot wait to hear the album.
The only thing I really believe they should do is get a different opener for their tour. Joan Jett does not mesh with REO at all. All she did was covers of other people’s songs, and REO did all their originals, and that’s what they need - someone to open for them who performs their own music. Now, if you are in Atlanta on August 5th, REO will be playing Atlanta again at Wild Bill’s, which should be another sold out show. If you are a true REO fan, you will pick up their new album Find Your Way Home, and get on their email list, buy the t-shirts, it’s all worth it. If you want to impress someone you love for their birthday, anniversary or just for being a fan, buy them tickets for this tour. You do not want to miss this show this summer, so go to Ticketmaster and look up REO and start buying them tickets. I promise this is an event you will never forget.