REO Speedwagon kicked off the new year Saturday night, with a sold-out show in New Buffalo, Michigan.
For 1,600 people, Saturday night was an exciting night as they were fortunate enough to get a ticket to the sold out REO Speedwagon show at the Silver Creek Event Center located inside the Four Winds Casino.
As you walked the floor of the casino, an array of concert t-shirts filled the room. For the past 45 years, REO Speedwagon has been filling concert halls, festivals, and other live music venues. Along the way, they have sold many concert souvenirs including t-shirts with a multitude of logos, designs, and colors.
REO Speedwagon was formed in 1967 and originated in Champaign, Illinois. The band is now made up of Kevin Cronin (vocals and guitar), Bruce Hall (bass guitar and vocals), Dave Amato (lead guitar and vocals), Bryan Hitt (drums and percussion), and Neal Doughty (keyboard and piano), the last of the original founders.
The name came from a red REO Speed Wagon, the flatbed truck Doughty studied in transportation history while attending college at the University of Illinois.
You could also hear the crowds talking amongst themselves with excitement as they patiently waited for the doors to open. They shared memories of past shows they attended and highlights of those shows.
At the same time, there was also another crowd on the casino floor that was walking around in disappointment as they waited too long to try to get tickets.
Upon entering the center and taking a seat, you could hear more stories of past shows around you as the crowds filled the empty seats inside and met their new neighbors for the evening. Finally, when the room lights went out, and the stage lights came up, the crowd rose to their feet clapping their hands and cheering loudly as the band took the stage.
The band started their show with their 1981 hit “Don’t Let Him Go.” With the crowd on their feet, they danced into the isle ways while singing along with the band word for word.
The stage consists of six lit up pillars across the back with a drum riser sitting center stage in front of them. The massive drum kit is made up of a shiny chrome plated framework of a tubular structure. In front and to the left of Bryan’s throne is Neal’s keyboards, and to the right sits a piano. As Kevin sings from front center, Bruce takes the stage to Kevin’s left while Dave is positioned to his right.
As REO Speedwagon plays each song, the three frontmen throughout the show stand at the edge of the stage and play their guitars for the crowd in front and interact with them on each side of the stage.
At times during the show, Kevin introduced songs and their meanings to the band. Some were funny, and some were sad.
He spoke of one, where life on the road is tough and being away for so long at times can be hard on families and loved ones. He explained how in 1979, Neal came into the studio and feeling heartbroken over a letter he had received from his then wife that she had left with a mutual friend. After taking a brief moment to catch his breath, he joked that Neal was going to miss his friend. As the crowd broke into laughter, the band played “In Your Letter.”
Next, Kevin talked about how he was the oldest son in his family with Italian ancestry and was destined to become a priest. While growing up and learning about priesthood was fine, until he reached puberty. At that point, he heard about chastity and weighed it out, chastity versus puberty. He described how he then discovered that he was from the church of rock n’ roll. If Kevin had taken the vow of chastity, he would have never had a girlfriend, he would have never had a broken heart, and thus he never would have written “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”
Kevin then took a moment to talk about his long-time friend and companion in the early years of REO Speedwagon, Gary Richrath, a former lead guitarist, and songwriter. He spoke of how Gary had passed away in September of 2015 and how the band feels he is their guardian angel. Kevin stated that Gary taught him everything he knew about being a lead singer in a rock and roll band. Now, they play “Golden Country” as a tribute to Gary. Dave jumped into a big guitar solo during the song and Dave and Bryan finish with a drum/guitar solo.
The band has several vocalists as Bruce takes center stage to show off his singer-songwriter skills with the singing of his 1979 hit, “Back On The Road Again.” During this song, Kevin, and Dave run back and forth from side to side of the stage playing guitars down in front as they interact with the crowd.
As Kevin sat at the piano, he told the crowd how they needed to go and thank Four Winds for starting 2016 off right by having REO Speedwagon play at the casino. He then finished this part of the show off with “Roll With The Changes.” At the conclusion, the band took a moment and left the stage.
With cheering and chants, the band returned to the stage as Kevin sat back down at the piano. He told the story of how the band was not in a great position in 1980, still searching for a big hit. However, a sudden inspiration would soon change everything. It all started when he woke up at four in the morning with three chords running through his head, so he ran to his piano and put the song together. The song became the band’s first number one hit single and saved the life of the band. As Kevin played them first few notes on the piano, the crowd cheered and sang along to, “Keep On Loving You.”
When the song concludes, Bryan jumps up from his drum throne and climbs behind a large gong and as he likes to say “Hitt ‘Em Hard” while Kevin talks about their New Year’s resolution to stick together and keep “Ridin’ The Storm Out.”
Dave, who spent three years playing with Ted Nugent before joining REO Speedwagon in 1989, goes into a guitar run as Kevin compliments him by saying that Dave sings like no other. Dave then starts singing Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold.”
Together Dave and Kevin sing Tom Petty’s “Listen To Her Heart,” before “I Saw Her Standing There” by the Beatles and finishing with “Gloria” by Van Morrison’s band, Them.
After 45 years of making music and touring, this band sounds just as good now as they did in their prime. Their energy on stage is also shows of their fitness and well-being. They do not show any signs of slowing down as they talk about getting ready to start another year of making memories one city at a time. So for those who did not get a ticket to this evening’s show, it is strongly suggested you rush out next time and get yourself a ticket that day, instead of hoping to get one on the day of the show. From the indications of this show, 1,600 people will be back for their next.
Don’t Let Him Go
Take It On The Run
In Your Letter
Can’t Fight This Feeling
That Ain’t Love
Time For Me To Fly
Back On The Road Â Again
Roll With The Changes
Keep On Loving You
Ridin’ The Storm Out
Listen To Her Heart
I Saw Her Standing There