It didn’t take long for REO Speedwagon front man Kevin Cronin to make the announcement. After completing the band’s third song of the evening – the monster hit “Take It On The Run” from their ten-million selling “Hi Infidelity” album – Cronin took to the mic to announce that the band had recently been self-anointed the Kings Of Classic Rock.
Although obviously made in jest it’s hard to argue the fact, based upon the evidence that was presented at last night’s SOLD OUT show at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA.
REO Speedwagon has always been notorious for bringing one of the most magical, high-energy shows around, but the band’s performance last night seemed more like a musical revival than a typical rock concert – and REO preached the gospel as fans were treated to music spanning the length of the band’s 40+ year career.
Front man Kevin Cronin’s vocals never seemed to waver – singing the same songs he’s been performing since the mid 1970’s with both gusto and perfection. For a man who has written an arsenal of classic rock favorites over the years, he’s still at the top of his game.
Guitarist Dave Amato, who just celebrated 25 years with REO is a force to be reckoned with. Not only does he make fellow guitarists (like me) drop their jaws at his playing and collection of Les Pauls and Fender Stratocasters, but he’s also one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
Keyboardist Neal Doughty remains the sole member of the band’s original line-up since its formation in 1967, and one of the most magical moments of the evening came when Cronin introduced him before Doughty began playing the opening intro to their smash-hit “Can’t Fight This Feeling”.
Drummer Bryan Hitt doesn’t miss a beat – literally. Whether he’s playing the intro to “Don’t Let Him Go” or wailing away on the gong while surveying the landscape, there’s no one who can deliver the back beat for REO better than Hitt.
REO is also well-known for unleashing its classic rock heavy artillery towards the end of the set and last night was no exception. Following an audience participation request by Cronin, bassist Bruce Hall took to the mic for the anthemic “Back On The Road Again”.
Following another staple of 70’s radio – “Roll With The Changes”, the band came back for an encore of their first #1 hit (“Keep On Loving You”) followed by Cronin’s infamous “Last song people” announcement before launching into a rousing finale of “Ridin’ The Storm Out” – complete with sirens!
I’ve seen REO Speedwagon more than a dozen times since the mid-80’s. From small-town college gymnasiums and theaters to large outdoor theme parks and music festivals. Each time, they just seem to get better and better. But last night’s show at Penns Peak was more than just another sold out, high energy performance by classic rock royalty. It was a kinship of music lovers celebrating the career of a band they love – and one whose songs have helped them through both good times and bad.
As one of the 1,800 loyal subjects who surveyed the REO Speedwagon kingdom last night, I am pleased to report that our future is in good hands.
Long live the kings.
REO Speedwagon Set List (Jim Thorpe, PA)
Don’t Let Him Go
Take It On The Run
Can’t Fight This Feeling
That Ain’t Love
Like You Do
Keep The Fire Burnin’ (Acoustic)
Time For Me To Fly
Back On The Road Again
Roll With Changes
Keep on Loving You
Ridin’ The Storm Out