Tuesday, November 12, 2013

CONCERT REVIEW: REO Speedwagon (Guest Post)

REO SPEEDWAGON
w/ The Robin Zander Band
(King Center / Melbourne, FL / 11.9.13)
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I've borrowed
"Guest Blogger"
Michelle Wilson
from Ink19.com
once again to
offer yet another
riveting and 
rockin' exposé
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On a cool, crisp Florida night full of musical promise, it was an epic double-bill at Melbourne's Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts. REO Speedwagon headlined a nearly sold-out show, featuring Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander and his Robin Zander Band as the opening act.

Clad in black form-fitting leather pants and a flowing, leather jacket, accompanied by a patriotic stars-and-stripes scarf and an off-white top hat, Robin Zander appeared svelte and stylish as ever, prancing across the stage and engaging fans in several sing-alongs — setting a fun, upbeat tone for the night.

ROBIN ZANDER

His all-star band was comprised of longtime collaborator and friend, former John Entwistle drummer, Steve Luongo and guitarist Mark Hitt, who has performed with the likes of Robert Plant and The Tubes. Rounding out the combo was bass player Larry Hobbs and seasoned Cheap Trick touring keyboardist Phil "Magic" Cristian. Also part of the lineup, and following in his father's musical footsteps, was Zander's son, Robin Taylor Zander on guitar, who offered a fresh, youthful vibe to the veteran ensemble.

RZB opened their set with a rousing Harry Nilsson cover, “Jump Into the Fire,” followed by a remake of Cheap Trick’s cover of The Move’s “California Man.” While Zander is renowned for performing iconic cover versions, tonight’s song choices delved into some unexpected yet enjoyable deeper cuts such as Led Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days,” The Who’s “Bargain,” The Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers” and a rendition of “It’s All Over Now,” a number one hit for the Rolling Stones. Also featured was “In the Street,” the Alex Chilton / Chris Bell-penned theme song recorded by Cheap Trick for That ‘70s Show

LARRY HOBBS
A midway, high-energy jam including a one-handed drum solo from Luongo also added to the fun factor. Much to the delight of the crowd, Zander’s daughter, Robin-Sailor, and an additional pre-chosen audience member joined him on stage to perform backing vocals on Cheap Trick’s “Love Comes.” Another true highlight of the set was “The Flame,” Cheap Trick’s chart-topping single from 1988 which boldly showcased Zander’s well-maintained vocal ability.  The band closed the one-hour set with AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock‘n’ Roll), and people were on their feet, clapping and cheering wildly.

During a brief intermission, the clean-looking stage that included vertical lighting and metallic risers was prepped for the main event. And at 9:30 the legendary REO Speedwagon came on, full throttle — and (almost) never slowed down.
KEVIN CRONIN
Founding keyboardist / pianist Neal Doughty and longtime drummer Bryan Hitt were situated on two of the three risers, along with a grand piano on stage right, leaving plenty of room for perennial members, bassist Bruce Hall, lead guitarist Dave Amato and iconic lead vocalist / rhythm guitarist Kevin Cronin to cross-connect.

The crowd was on its feet, drawn in immediately by such stellar classics as “Don’t Let Him Go,” “Music Man,” “Keep Pushin’, “Like You Do,”  “Time for Me to Fly” and “That Ain’t Love.”

DAVE AMATO
“K.C.” and company emanated genuine passion for their music, and for each other. The instant feeling of joy among band members was contagious, as they looked and sounded fresh, and all seemed to be having a ball. Cronin’s vocals were in top form throughout the evening and Amato, who has been with REO since the departure of original guitarist Gary Richrath in 1989, thrilled the audience with his blistering guitar work. Hall assumed lead vocals on his signature song, the hard-drivin’ “Back on the Road Again,” with more mad skills from Amato — and the crowd absolutely ate it up.

BRUCE HALL
Other highlights included two Richrath-penned cuts, the heart-wrenching “Take it on the Run” and the denser, deeper Vietnam protest song “Golden Country,” perhaps the best song of the evening. The 1985 #1 hit, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and the 1973 album cut, “Son of a Poor Man” both highlighted Doughty on piano, while the 1978 FM staple, “Roll with the Changes” showcased Cronin’s piano skills.

The encores of “Keep on Loving You” and Richrath’s “Riding the Storm Out” closed the show and had the King Center crowd on its feet once again, wishing for more. Without a doubt, this was a memorable show indeed, and by the looks of it, REO Speedwagon will not be losing steam any time soon — and they definitely shouldn’t.
-Michelle Wilson
(November 2013)
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