posted on June 25, 2012 07:12
It definitely wasn’t the same old story when the Midwest Rock ‘n’ Rock Express made a pit stop in St. Louis to take fans on a trip back to the future, filled with pure adrenaline, appreciation and adoration for the Midwest.
REO Speedwagon headlined the show, and their love and appreciation for St. Louis was evident from the moment they stepped on the stage to the last note that echoed through the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. They kicked off the set with “Don’t Let Him Go,” followed by one of my REO favorites, “Take it on the Run” then “Keep Pushin’.”
At one point, frontman Kevin Cronin told the crowd KSHE was the first band to play their music, and 40 years ago this summer was when the classic rock station first played “Golden Country” -- the first REO song to make it on the radio – which segued into playing the song live.
Cronin and company started off their set a little more subdued than Styx -- who were bouncing around the stage just about the entire time -- but their energy and excitement increased with each song, building up to a great ending to a great show.
Before Cronin started “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” he told the crowd that song is a little harder to sing after seeing “Rock of Ages.”
After rockin’ out to “Time for Me to Fly,” Cronin said the band was done messin’ around, and it was time to “break out the classic rock heavy artillery.” Then the classic rock band turned out hits such as “Back on the Road Again,” “Roll with the Changes” and “157 Riverside Avenue.”
From the get go, it was clear to see the band still enjoys performing. They were interactive both with the crowd and each other, which, for the age of the band, was surprising and extremely entertaining.
During the encore, the band sent fans away in an ’80s euphoria with “Ridin’ the Storm Out.” What truly showed how much REO appreciates St. Louis was that one of the last things Cronin told the crowd was, “You’re the reason we’re still here tonight.”
When Styx ran on stage before REO, they immediately had the crowd on its feet, opening with “Blue Collar Man.” They went straight to “Grand Illusion,” which was accompanied by the album artwork on the display screen behind the band. Of the three bands, Styx most effectively utilized the display screen, filling it with album covers and hints of what songs would be up next.
Throughout the set, the entire band was exploding with intensity. Keyboardist Lawrence Gowan stood out the most, partly because he was set up on a rotating platform. But in addition to that, he was bounding all across the stage, hitting all the right notes while dancing around and, at times, not even looking at the keys.
Styx also played “Too Much Time on my Hands,” the first song where the band encouraged audience-participation, followed by “Lady” and “Lorelei.” They put quite a few songs in the lineup from “Grand Illusion,” including “Miss America” and “Fooling Yourself,” which I didn’t expect. Despite playing a good set, adding a variety of songs could have put it over the top.
Arguably one of the most well-received songs of the night, without question, was “Come Sail Away,” which had the crowd singing along with every word (though not unlike every other song).
The band’s encore featured “Rockin’ the Paradise” and “Renegade” – the song I enjoyed the most.
Ted Nugent opened the show and had fans on their feet a lot earlier than I expected. He had good on-stage chemistry with the band as well. Due to traffic circumstances beyond my control, I got to the venue about 15 minutes into the Nuge’s set, and he was just starting to play Motown hits. In between songs, the Motor City Madman felt the need to say, “Only in American can you make music like this. You can’t do this in France, motherfucker!” He then proceeded to rock out to Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” which was unexpectedly good and also gave me “Back to the Future” flashbacks.
After taking a trip to Motown, Nugent got back to his own hits, getting the crowd revved up with “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Stranglehold” to end the set, which was much more tame than I expected.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t all that impressed by Nugent. Granted, I did miss the first part of his set, but I expected a lot more action and intensity than what he delivered – not only in his stage presence, but in his political comments. He was a lot more subdued than what he’s been cracked up to be.
All in all, the whole show was a gigantic cluster of who’s who of classic hits. There wasn’t a song that wasn’t immediately recognizable, showing the lasting impression each band has band in the Midwest.