There’s something rather inspiring about witnessing an artist of a certain age metaphorically say: Fuck it. I’m NOT too old for this shit, and I’m going to do what I want.
This might be the best way to describe what the 54,039 REO Speedwagon fans experienced at Reliant Stadium Monday night when their band took the stage for a RodeoHouston concert.
Not that lead singer Kevin Cronin, his gravity defying white hair visible from any seat in the house, ever used those words the many times he talked with the audience in between songs. (Maybe he spotted the kids in the crowd usually accompanied by what looked to be their middle-aged fathers.) Yet with their opening song “Don’t Let Him Go,” it became apparent that this much older, but still kickin' it REO Speedwagon was going to play as they wanted and what they wanted.
The guitar air jumps, stage runs, guitar solos and Hitt’s need to go shirtless halfway through the performance all point to a band having immense fun.
Those in the crowd who came expecting to see the familiar Top 40 radio and early MTV stars might have been surprised to meet REO the classic rockers from the '70s and early '80s.
This latest incarnation of the band — one of many since REO formed in 1967 — consists of long-time members Cronin, Bruce Hall on bass guitar and Neal Doughty on keyboards along with newer members Dave Amato who joined the band in 1989 and drummer Bryan Hitt who joined in 1990. The guitar air jumps, stage runs, multiple guitar solos and Hitt’s need to go shirtless halfway through the performance all point to a band having immense fun and who seemed just happy to be in the middle of the Reliant stage looking up at all those fans surrounding them.
When Cronin told the crowd they had played some big gigs in the past, “but nothing like this,” there might have even been a little awe in his voice. Yet, the band seemed least likely to act their age when the spirit of classic rock took hold of them.
REO sprinkled their hour long play list with several of their biggest hits everyone could sing along with: “Take It On the Run,” “Fly” and “Keep on Loving You.” When they got to the one we all were waiting for “Can’t Stop This Feeling,” Cronin gave a bit of music history lesson, explaining how they wanted to emulate the Beatles' ability to cross rock and pop genres, that they were attempting to write their own “Yesterday.”
But by placing their biggest hit only halfway through the concert, they made it clear this song was just one of many they love to play.
The crowd might have cried for and sang every note of “Can’t Stop This Feeling,” but the hearts of REO belonged back in the 1970s, if Cronin’s eloquent introduction to “Golden Country” was any gage. This political song written when they were young men who thought they had something to teach the world and the closing song of the night — “Ridin the Storm” a release from 1973 — might not have served fan expectations.
Instead these songs proved that for deep, energetic performances it’s best to let rockers of a certain age rock on any way they please.
Don’t Let Him Go
Take It On the Run
Can’t Fight This Feeling
That Ain’t Love
Back On the Road
Keep on Loving You
Roll with the Changes
Ridin The Storm Out