Old-timers REO break in new stadium
’80s hit factory plays for all ages at Regency
Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008
It could have been a beautiful night for baseball, but it turned out to be an even better night for a concert.
Click here to enlarge this photo
Photo by RICHIE DOWNS
REO Speedwagon frontman Kevin Cronin puts some emotion into a lick at the inaugural concert at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf on Monday night.
E-Mail This Article | Print This Story
Click here to enlarge this photo
Staff photo by CARRIE LOVEJOY
REO Speedwagon bass player Bruce Hall is feelin’ it during Monday’s concert at the Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
The next concert at Regency Furniture Stadium, the Southern Maryland Country Music Festival on Sept. 20, begins at 2 p.m. and features Gary Allan and Shooter Jennings. Tickets are $42.50 and $55. And it was recently announced that Funk Fest, featuring Kool & the Gang, Ohio Players and Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes will be held the next day at 2 p.m. General admission is $55. Tickets are on sale at www.somdbluecrabs.com or by calling 301-638-9788.
The sky was clear and the temperature cool on Aug. 11, the night REO Speedwagon was slated to take the stage at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
According to the Web site of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, more than 4,000 people attended the stadium’s first major concert. The seats were nearly full, and the infield was roped off and covered with a rug, creating a general admission area in front of the stage, which was set up around second base.
The stage was adorned with images from REO Speedwagon’s newest album. The front portion was an open space for lead singer and guitarist Kevin Cronin, bassist Bruce Hall and lead guitarist Dave Amato to move around freely and entertain the audience with contained histrionics. Stairs in the back of the stage lead up to the drums of Bryan Hitt, the keyboards of original member Neal Doughty and the piano Cronin would turn to late in the night for a rendition of his 1980 No. 1 hit, ‘‘Keep on Loving You.”
REO Speedwagon emerged on the stage at 8:15 p.m. without an introduction. Hitt came out and whaled on the giant cymbal hung behind his drum kit, and the band tore through three straight songs. It took these songs to get the mix right, and early guitar riffs were sometimes punctuated by a screeching, ear-piercing wail.
After a driving opening number, REO got the crowd involved with ‘‘Take It on the Run,” a track from the band’s 1980 breakthrough album, ‘‘Hi Infidelity.” And while some REO devotees have previously questioned how the band could go on without the inventive guitarist Gary Richrach, Amato certainly makes an obvious case otherwise. Like the other ‘‘newcomer,” Hitt, he has been with the band for about 20 years.
Throughout the night, REO bounced back and forth between various strains of upbeat 1980s-era rock and the ballads the group is known for, like ‘‘Can’t Fight This Feeling,” which brought out a wave of glowsticks and lighters. Some of the best moments arrived when a path was laid out for Doughty’s B-3 organ solos.
In 1980, ‘‘Hi Infidelity” sold nearly 10 million copies. An REO video was aired on the first day of MTV, and the group became one of the defining arena rock kings of the decade.
But the concert in Waldorf was reminder of two things: REO made plenty of music before the decade which defines them, and they have recently created new music that fits right in with the group’s unmistakable sound. Whether it was a vintage tune or a new song made to sound vintage, REO performed them unabashedly like they were currently in style, and yet nothing about it seemed overly nostalgic.
After rolling through a few tunes, Cronin, as he usually does, stopped to say hello to the audience. He said the band came to Waldorf with one objective – to party – before he introduced the eponymous single from 2007’s ‘‘Find Your Own Way Home,” a song about ‘‘tough love and the challenge of making it through.”
Created during a stormy time in his personal life, Cronin has likened ‘‘Find Your Own Way Home” to a sequel to ‘‘Hi Infidelity.” REO played three songs from the album, including Cronin’s confessional ‘‘Dangerous Combination” (which has more of a modern pop feel) and ‘‘Smilin’ in the End.”
REO’s show was extremely energetic. Cronin, who will manically explain the story behind a song and whose voice has plenty of pop, would turn the microphone into a baton of sorts when he wasn’t playing the guitar. The dynamo would bolt from one side of the stage to the other, and there was always constant movement and interaction between him, Amato and Hall.
Throughout the night, Cronin’s stories combined personal anecdotes and even some political expression prior to 1972’s ‘‘Golden Country,” a song about the Vietnam War. He said the tune disappeared for many years and resurfaced when it was once again relevant.
‘‘I think everyone can come together and agree we need to do everything we can to bring this war to an end,” Cronin said, referring to the Iraq War.
Later, Cronin brought the audience to its feet when he wandered off with his guitar into left field during ‘‘Time for Me to Fly.” The following 1979 tune, ‘‘Back on the Road Again,” capped an REO power-jam.
Nothing excited the crowd quite like Cronin’s former No. 1 hit, ‘‘Keep On Loving You.” With Cronin on piano, REO began with the usual tender version before picking up the speed and even adding a small twist of gospel before departing the stage.
REO’s three-song encore, beginning with the title track from 1973’s ‘‘Ridin’ The Storm Out,” segued into a peppy rendition of ‘‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and then one last 1980s-meets-the-blues bit in which Cronin dispelled, point-by-point, various notions that the band is over-the-hill, past its peak and washed up.
Cronin could have easily let the performance speak for itself.
Towards the end of the concert, those dancing in the corridor behind the seats included parents with young children, teenagers, rock fans and perhaps even some REO diehards.
In other words, it was an audience of all ages, and just about everyone seemed more than pleased with REO’s 95-minute show.