Written by James Downing
Summer means one thing for fans of rock and roll music. That is the time when your favorite rockers are likely to load up on the bus and hit the road. They might have a new album to promote or they might not. But one thing is for sure and that a lot of bands will be playing outside venues. For the past 10 years The Memphis Botanic Garden has hosted a summer concert series called, “Live At The Garden.” The series has hosted a wide range of bands from The Moody Blues to Diana Ross to Train just to name a few. This year two of my favorites were co-headlining a tour that made a stop at The Garden. That is Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon. I couldn’t miss this show so I called a good friend in Memphis and asked her if she would also like to go see these two classic rock staples. She told me she had never seen either band and would love to go. I got the tickets and got ready for a night full of classic rock hits from Pat and REO.
The afternoon of the show the sky begin to cloud up some and the threat of thunder storms was in the air. Around 6pm a storm moved through the area but moved out in time. Actually the rain cooled the air off quite a bit and made a very comfortable night for a rock and roll concert.
Many times when there are two headliners sharing the stage, they will usually swap out each night of who goes on first and who goes on last. Also when this happens each band will do a shorter set than usual. But that means one thing… They will play nothing but hit after hit, giving the majority of the audience what they came to hear. On this night REO Speedwagon hit the stage first. Before the REO came out, there were videos shown on the media screens from the band’s hey day in the late 70′s and early 80′s. The crowd roared as the band walked out on stage. It is hard to believe that it has been 30 years since the record “Hi Infidelity” first hit the charts. This was the bands biggest hit seller which sold more than 9 million copies and produced 6 hit singles. It was one of the biggest selling albums of 1981 and guaranteed the band a place in classic rock history. This tour is in honor of the anniversary of that album. They opened with the first song from that album and a song that they have opened with for years, “Don’t Let Him Go.” I like this song but I feel like the band has more rocking song to start the show off with. I would much rather hear them open with “Tough Guys,” “Say You Love Me Or Say Goodnight,” “Like You Do,” or “Keep Pushin’ On.”
Kevin Cronin, Bruce Hall, Neal Doughty, Dave Armato and Bryan Hitt didn’t waste a minute belting out the hits. “Keep On Lovin’ You” was next. This got the biggest response of the night from the crowd. If you have read any of my other concert reviews you know how much I like it when the audience sings along with a song. This was one of those songs. It seemed like everyone knew the words. How could they not. You can’t turn on a classic rock station for more than a couple hours and not hear this song. They followed this one up with “In Your Letter” and “Take It On The Run.” This tour was named after that song, “Take It On The Run Tour 2010.” It really shows a band’s popularity and longevity when they can name a tour after a song that is 30 years old!
For the next song they went back a little further than 30 years as they continued with, “Keep Pushin’ On” (one of the songs I mentioned earlier as a good opener). Before the next song Kevin explained how back in the early 70′s when the Veitnam War and Kent State among other things had the country in turmoil, they recorded “Golden Country.” He said that he thought the song still made a statement about the state of America today… and it does! This is one of my favorite live songs from REO. They chose another ballad next as they began the romantic hit, “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” The next song showed that they can still rock after all these years with, “Like You Do.”
After performing “Time For Me To Fly,” Kevin said they were going to bring out REO Speedwagon’s secret weapon now. That “secret weapon” was bass player Bruce Hall. I knew we were about to hear another rocker at this point as Bruce provided the lead vocals on the hit song, “Back On The Road Again.” The final song of the set was “Roll With The Changes” from the 1976 offering, “You Can Tune A Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish.” I always thought that record should win an award for best album title of all time. The crowd still wanted more and the band returned to the stage for one more song. Kevin told the crowd “Thank you for riding the storm out with us tonight” and finished out their portion of the night with “Ridin’ The Storm Out.”
I have heard Kevin say that REO stands for “Rain Expected Outdoors.” I think it also stand for “Repeats Everything Often.” They are very predictable in their choice of songs for their shows. I know they are doing what the masses want to hear but they shouldn’t forget their die hard fans that have been with them from the early years. After 15 studio albums and 2 live albums there are a lot of songs out there that they can pick from. Now don’t get me wrong, Kevin Cronin has to have sang these songs hundreds of times, and he still delivers them just as strongly as he did when they were new, but it would be good to dig out some “gems” every now and then. Also they didn’t include “157 Riverside Ave.” In my opinion they shouldn’t do a show without this song (just like “Ridin’ The Storm Out”). For those two reasons I am going to deduct 1.5 points from this show. That gives it an 8.5 on the Concert Blast Scale.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this review: Pat Benatar Concert Review
Written By James Downing