Concert Review: REO Speedwagon Brings Memories, Hits to Sold Out Penn’s Peak Performance

(l to r): Bryan HItt, Kevin Cronin, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato

Friday, February 22nd, 1985. Musically speaking, it’s a day that’s cemented in my head, much like my wedding anniversary and the day my daughter was born. It’s one of those days where something magical happens, and for some reason known only to the musical gods, one that you remember forever. I’d recently turned fifteen, and my buddy Mike and I were eager to cash in our concert tickets at the local college gymnasium, Stabler Arena.

Acoustically, I’m sure a basketball court with a makeshift stage wasn’t the greatest of places to play, but for pimple-faced teens with little cash resources, it was a prime spot to catch a band in your hometown without having to fork over all of the lawn mowing money you made last summer just to get bus fare to the bigger cities like Philadelphia and New York.

February 22nd, 1985 was special because it was first time I ever saw REO Speedwagon, who were out in support of their recently released album, Wheels Are Turnin’. An album I had already worn out on my turntable. The first video from the album, “I Do’ Wanna Know” was already a hit on MTV, and a tasty ballad called “Can’t Fight This Feeling” was steadily making its way up the charts toward #1.

(l to r): Neal Doughty Bryan Hitt, Kevin Cronin

Since that fateful evening thirty-three years ago, I’ve seen REO Speedwagon more than thirty times. I’ve seen them perform at music festivals, in intimate theaters and as part of a two or three-band package at large arenas. I even traveled to Los Angeles last summer to catch them perform with Styx and Don Felder as part of their United We Rock tour. Yes, I’m one of those fans.

Although seeing them in a distant city is fun, it’s an even bigger treat whenever they come to my town, and last night it was at the beautiful Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA.

On the calendar it was the final night of summer, and as I approached the box office I noticed a large sign prominently displayed in the window — “REO Speedwagon –  SOLD OUT”. That sign and what was to follow was a friendly reminder that just like fine wine the band, which consists of Kevin Cronin, Neal Doughty, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato and Bryan Hitt, has only gotten better with age.

Walking on stage to the drum intro of the classic “Don’t Let Him Go”, a song that’s been the band’s staple concert opener for decades, REO launched into a blistering set of songs spanning the group’s 45-year career. Songs like “Music Man,” and “Keep Pushin’” were driving and powerful reminders of the band’s early club days, while the aforementioned “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” was both symbolic and sentimental.

Songs from the band’s monster album Hi Infidelity were also featured prominently during their hour and twenty-minute set. In addition to “Don’t Let Him Go,” REO performed “Tough Guys,” “In Your Letter,” and “Take it On The Run.”

At one point, Cronin took time out to pay homage to the band’s original guitarist, Gary Richrath, who passed away in 2015. Richrath left the band in 1989 but his memory lives on in the song “Son Of A Poor Man.” It was a song Richrath wrote about his life growing up and one which Cronin said summed it up perfectly.

“Time For Me To Fly”, another fan favorite and a song that I remember closed out the show in 1985, was featured midway into the set. It’s a classic rock staple that Cronin performs on an acoustic guitar with a unique tuning, and these days segues into Bruce Hall’s blistering bassline before the infectious “Back On The Road Again”. REO finished their main set with another round of classic rock heavy artillery – the thundering “Ridin’ The Storm Out”, complete with blaring sirens.

Bruce Hall and Dave Amato

After a short hiatus, the band returned for an encore, with Cronin sitting at the piano telling the sold out audience about how quickly lives can change if you choose a different path at the last minute. He then told the story of waking up one night back in 1980 with a song idea in his head. Instead of ignoring it and going back to sleep, Cronin got up and recorded the idea on his Walkman. The result would become the band’s first #1 song, “Keep On Loving You.”

The band then launched into one of their most recognizable songs, “Roll With The Changes,” which features Doughty’s iconic Hammond organ and guitarist Dave Amato’s fiery guitar prowess.

The one thing I’ve noticed during every REO Speedwagon show is that there’s always some sort of surprise, and this time was no different. Before leaving the stage for the final time the band performed an inspiring cover of Tom Petty’s “Listen to Her Heart”. Petty, another hero of mine and who, like Richrath, had recently passed away, reminded me of how far I’ve come in thirty-three years and just how fragile we all are.

As I strolled out of the venue and into the final hours of summer, the fog was as thick as pea soup. Time was still moving. Tomorrow, mother nature would officially begin her process of ushering in cool temperatures, crisp morning air and changing the leaves from green to bright red, orange and yellow.

It was then that something else occurred to me, and I found myself once again drifting back to that cold February night in 1985. It was something Cronin had said during tonight’s set to the die-hard fans who’ve been with the band from their earliest of days to tonight’s sold-out show at Penn’s Peak.

Rock and roll will keep us young forever.

REO Speedwagon Set List (Penn’s Peak – Jim Thorpe, PA)

Don’t Let Him Go
Music Man
In Your Letter
Keep Pushin’
Can’t Fight This Feeling
Tough Guys
Son of A Poor Man
Take It On the Run
Time For Me to Fly
Back On the Road Again
Ridin’ The Storm Out

Encore:

Keep On Loving You
Roll With The Changes
Listen To Her Heart (Tom Petty Cover)

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Interview: Rachel Reinert discusses her infectious debut single, ‘Cool’

Photo by Angela Talley

When singer-songwriter Rachel Reinert joined Gloriana at the age of eighteen, she began a whirlwind journey that yielded the band three critically-acclaimed albums, extensive tours and working with artists like Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band. The group was even awarded the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Vocal Group as well as earning an American Music Award for Breakthrough Artist of the Year.

But Reinert had always envisioned herself as a solo artist, and in 2015 the sultry vocalist decided to fulfill her life’s ambition. She stepped away from the spotlight and began developing a sound that infuses her poetic voice with a California-country vibe.

The title of Reinert’s hook-laden debut single, “Cool,” is apropos. For not only does it introduce the beautiful songstress as a solo artist, but it also exposes her unique, groove-ridden combination of pop and country, with tasty elements of artists like The Eagles and The Stone Canyon Band.

AXS recently spoke with Rachel Reinert about “Cool,” her decision to leave Gloriana, and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: What was the driving force that made you decide to pursue a solo career?

Rachel Reinert: Time was the biggest factor. I had originally moved to Nashville from California when I was sixteen. I signed a publishing deal and had every intention of being a solo artist. I was on that path for a few years; doing a lot of writing and spinning my wheels. When I turned eighteen, I had the opportunity to be a part of Gloriana. It ended up being one of the most amazing experiences of my life for eight years. We had a great run, but after the third album, I thought in my heart of hearts that it was time to set out on a fresh start. So, I put my head down and started writing. I wanted my sound to be very California-country. Rooted in where I come from and the music I was raised on.

AXS: How did your new single, “Cool,” originate?

RR: I started writing with David Naish and Melissa Fuller. We developed this amazing rapport and friendship. Whenever I feel comfortable in a room with someone and can share my experiences and what’s on my mind, that’s when the best songs develop. That day, I went in and told them I wanted to write a song about my first love. So, we started diving into the story and how the relationship I was in went from first love to first heartbreak and being absolutely devastated. Then, over the span of almost fifteen years, the relationship developed into a true, genuine friendship. It’s an interesting dynamic about time and forgiveness and how all of those experiences make you into who you are and where you’re meant to be.

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Interview with Rachel Reinert by Clicking Here!

Interview: David Archuleta discusses his new Christmas album, ‘Winter In The Air’

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since David Archuleta’swhirlwind run on American Idol. An experience that launched him into superstardom and ushered in the release of his debut, self-titled album, which sold nearly a million copies worldwide and made the singer/songwriter a household name.

In getting with the holiday spirit, Archuleta is unveiling his eighth studio album on Nov. 2 – the appropriately titled, Winter In The Air. The twelve-track compilation is Archuleta’s second Christmas-themed release and features his unique take on such Christmas classics as “White Christmas,” God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Mary, Did You Know?”

The album also features three original tracks co-written by Archuleta, including the bubbly first single, “Christmas Every Day” and the testimonial “He Is Born.” Archuleta also captures the magical feeling of the season with the sentimental title track. Pre-orders of Winter In The Air are available now and fans who do will receive an instant download of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

AXS recently spoke with David Archuleta about Winter In The Air, his time on American Idol and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: What made you decide to do another Christmas album?

David Archuleta: I’ve always loved Christmas music. Even when I was recording the first one nine years ago, Christmas From The Heart, I was already talking about doing another one. For this album, I wanted it to have a happier, classic, forties and fifties vibe of Christmas music on it. I tend to lean more serious and sacred but wanted to make sure there would also be good-feeling songs on there as well. So, I pushed myself a little and feel there’s a happy medium between the two.

AXS: You have a few originals on the album as well. What’s the secret to writing a Christmas song?

DA: This is my first time really getting into writing Christmas songs, and there are three different directions you can go. The first one is like the song, “Christmas Every Day” that I wrote with Cason Cooley and Dave Barnes. I wanted to write a song that was happy and bouncy. One with a “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” and “All I Want For Christmas” kind of vibe. I wanted a song that sounds like you’re walking down the street and you see Christmas lights on the houses and buildings. It asks the question, what are the things you see?

The second version is a more sacred spiritual approach, and that’s the song, “He is Born,” which expresses my testimony. I wondered what it would’ve been like to have been a shepherd that was there that night. What would I have observed and what would it have been like to have heard the angels singing praises?

The third is more romantic and that’s what I named the album after. “Winter In The Air” is about taking in the moment, breathing in the cold air and looking up at the branches of the trees with no leaves on them. Everything is quiet and you’re feeling the snowfall. I wanted to capture that moment.

AXS: Let’s talk about a few other tracks on the album, beginning with “White Christmas.”

DA: It’s the highest selling Christmas song of all-time and a classic. I do Christmas shows every year and this is a fun one to sing and to see how much people love it. I decided to record it for this album and do my own take on it.

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Interview with David Archuleta by Clicking Here!

Interview: Punk pioneer Palmyra Delran discusses her infectious new single, ‘Come Spy With Me’

Photo: Fred Lammers

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Palmyra Delran has often been referred to as the “Lucille Ball of Rock ‘n’ Roll” by the legendary Little Steven Van Zandt. But the trash-pop maven and punk pioneer is provoking espionage with her infectiously cool new single, “Come Spy With Me.”

The song is the title-track of Delran’s new album that’s due out Nov. 9. The album mixes groove-ridden elements from the early days of punk and explores subjects like today’s volatile political climate. “Come Spy With Me” also features an arsenal of special guests, including Van Zandt, Debbie Harry (Blondie), and John Carlucci (Fuzztones).

AXS is excited to premiere Delran’s new single, “Come Spy With Me” and recently spoke with about the new music and more in this exclusive interview.

AXS: What inspired the new track, “Come Spy With Me”?

Palmyra Delran: Initially, it was sort of a nod to cool spy shows like “Get Smart”. I’ve always liked the image of people talking into shoes and watches, which are things you can actually do now. I also love those clunky flashcubes on cameras. There was always something so funny about snapping a picture, getting temporarily blinded by the flash and then it would click to the next position. Then I made the connection between that and how weird the world has become. You see surveillance cameras on almost every corner and wonder why people even bother committing crimes. Everything is recorded and they’re sometimes in custody by the next day.

AXS: How would you describe your sound?

PD: Trash Pop… not Pop Trash. Trashy Pop describes the sound of the pop music. My stuff is a little rough but still catchy – with harmonies, hooks and riffs. It’s gotta be melodic!

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Interview with Palmyra Delan by Clicking Here!

Interview: Drake Bell discusses his intimate new tour, music

Photo: Vince Trupsin

The one thing you have to admit about singer/guitarist Drake Bell is that his music can’t be pigeonholed. The multi-talented artist has always had a way of showcasing multiple sides of his musical persona. Whether it’s the pop-fueled songs from his days acting on TV’s “Drake & Josh,” to the dynamic, rockabilly-flavor from his 2013 album, Ready, Steady Go!. Or even more recently, like last year’s EP, Honest and his current singles like “Call Me When You’re Lonely” and “First Thing In The Morning.” Bell’s music is ever evolving.

Longtime fans of Drake Bell and his music will be excited to know that the artist is currently embarked on a new U.S. tour (dates are below). A singer-songwriter-formatted style where Bell will crisscross the country with just himself and his guitar. The new tour promises to deliver an intimate look into Bell’s eclectic sound by stripping the music down into its truest form. Combining all the best elements of Bell’s pop, rock and rap into one tasty musical stew, Bell’s set will offer an honest look at the man and his music.

AXS recently spoke with Drake Bell about his new tour, music and more in this exclusive interview.

AXS: What can fans expect from your new tour?

Drake Bell: This is going to be a fun, intimate tour where it’s just me and my guitar getting in touch with fans and seeing the songs broken down into singer-songwriter style. When you do the big shows with a full band it’s not as easy to communicate with the audience or hang out with fans after the show. This is a cool way to get a gauge on what people are digging and to see what songs are working. It’ll be just like being in my living room hanging out.

AXS: What’s your songwriting process like?

DB: It usually starts with a beat or a chord progression or melody. Lyrics are always last for me and they always develop once the melodies are made. As far as what to write about, it’s usually about my experiences in life. Inspiration comes from all over. Songs like “Call Me When You’re Lonely” and “First Thing In The Morning” are explorations into this new sound and are good examples of how eclectic the music is. One day it may be rap, one day it may be pop, one day it may be rock. That’s what’s good about being an independent artist.

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Interview with Drake Bell by Clicking Here!

Ken “K.K.” Downing Discusses His New Autobiography, ‘Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest’

Photo: Ross Halfin

Through most of his 40-plus years as guitarist for the iconic British heavy metal band Judas Priest, Ken “K.K.” Downing lived the rock star life.

Now the metal legend is telling his story in a new autobiography, Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest.

Together with writer Mark Eglinton, Downing takes readers on a visceral journey from his impoverished childhood to the biggest stages in the world. In a vivid and often emotional recounting, the guitarist discusses all the highs and lows of his career with Judas Priest, from album cycles and touring to the inner-band battles with an up-and-coming Iron Maiden. Downing also pulls no punches in describing the events that led up to his departure from Priest following the band’s acclaimed 2008 double album, Nostradamus.

Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest will be released on September 18 by Da Capo Press.

Guitar World recently spoke with Downing about his new book, the legacy of Judas Priest and much more in this exclusive new interview.

What made you decide to write a book at this stage of your career?

So many people have been asking me about it and one day I just felt like it was the right time. I worked with Mark Eglinton, who’d recently done a biography with Rex Brown from Pantera. It was a chronological tour of my life. Mark would call me up and put up scenarios and then ask me what I remembered about them. It was quite a journey, to be fair, opening those locked doors and closets. It was also kind of emotional at times, going back through my life.

Judas Priest songs like “Living After Midnight,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ ” and “Painkiller” are iconic. Did you have any clue how special they would become when you were writing them?

I often think about that. When Pink Floyd was writing Dark Side of the Moon, they had no clue what they were creating. They were just doing the best they could at the time. That’s what we had always done. We worked hard and were very prolific just grinding away. In the beginning, I’d often say we may not be the best band, but if we stuck together and kept working away, one day we could achieve exactly what we wanted.

In the book, you mention about how, in the early days, Rob Halford was really starting to come into his own as a vocalist, and how everyone in the band had to stay on their game so another band wouldn’t come in and scoop him up.

I felt that we needed to have the right band members to stay the course. When Rob came on board, he was very outgoing and a flamboyant showman. I thought, This guy’s got such a great voice. He’s always going to sing and always going to put on a show, and I was right about that!

Read the rest of my
Interview with K.K. Downing by Clicking Here!

Interview: Brynn Elliott discusses her anthemic debut EP, Time Of Our Lives

Photo By Jimmy Fontaine

Brynn Elliott’s debut EP, Time of Our Lives is a beautifully crafted, living diary from the songstress’ four years in college. Her music is inspired by life, feminism, friendship and a deep understand of the human condition.

Songs like her hook-laden “Might Not Like Me” speak to that female empowerment, while the groove-ridden title track and the ethereal “Internet You” talk of living in the moment and not hiding behind faux personas.

Time Of Our Lives is an infectiously palpable debut from a rising star, and better still, just a taste of what’s to come.

AXS recently spoke with Brynn Elliott about her new EP and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How would you describe the new EP, Time Of Our Lives, in terms of its sound?

Brynn Elliott: For this EP, I wanted to write empowering anthems because that’s what I was experiencing in college. Each of the five songs came from that four-year journey. Sonically, there’s a lot of eighties empowerment and angst because that’s what the songs are about.

AXS What inspires you when you write and create?

BE: It usually starts with an idea. I studied philosophy at school and love the process of thinking slowly and trying to understand an intuitive or universal idea about the world or human beings. For me, that’s what songwriting is. The best songs come from that one idea; whether it’s the Internet, being a woman in 2018, or the simple experience of falling in love. It always starts with a concept or idea.

AXS: Let’s discuss a few tracks from the new EP beginning with the song, “Internet You”. What can you tell me about it?

BE: I have a section in my phone filled with concepts and titles and one of them was for a song that was originally called “Internet Love.” It’s weird how the Internet is shaping our romantic interactions. Sometimes, I would be set up through mutual friends and would check out their Instagram before we met. Then, when we did meet in person, I noticed the person I met in real life was different from the Internet version. We spend so much time curating an image of ourselves that we tend to forget to put the same energy into our relationships. It’s about making the real you the best that it can be.

AXS: How about the track, “Might Not Like Me?”

BE: That’s a song I wrote when I was going through this break-up. I was in a relationship with this guy who made me feel like I was too much into music and school. I was very busy with school and on the road touring on the weekends. He made me feel like I needed to dim my light. I was always concerned about what other people thought of me and that song is about the moment I decided to let him know how I felt. It was my decision to be myself and not worry about the opinions of others.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Brynn Elliott by Clicking Here!