REO Speedwagon

PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ

REO Speedwagon
PNC Bank Art Center, NJ 7/29/18
Review & Photos - Rebecca Wolf

When most people think of REO Speedwagon, the first thing that comes to mind is the 1980s. While the band was initially formed in 1967, it wasn’t until the band’s release of their hit album, Hi Infidelity, on November 21, 1980, that they found mainstream success. Hi Infidelity was the band’s 9th album. The more pop-oriented sound was a change from their previous hard rock material. Hi Infidelity produced four hit singles for the band, including “Keep On Loving You” and “Take It on the Run”. It remained on the charts for 65 weeks (32 weeks in the top ten) and has sold over 10 million copies.

By the time REO Speedwagon had their first hit record in 1980, keyboardist Neal Doughty and drummer Alan Gratzer, were the only remaining members from the original 1967 band. Lead guitarist Gary Richrath joined the band in 1970, lead vocalist Kevin Cronin joined the band in 1972 (leaving in ’73 and returning in ’76) and bassist Bruce Hall, joined in 1977. These members would remain with the band until Gratzer departed in 1988 and was replaced in 1989 by drummer Bryan Hitt. In 1989, Gary Richrath also left the band and his lead guitar position was filled by Dave Amato. This remains the band’s line up today. 

By the end of the 1980s, the band had released 3 more albums. Their 1982 album, Good Trouble had some success, with the hit single, “Keep the Fire Burning” and in 1984, Wheels Are Turnin’ included the #1 hit single “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” However, by 1987, there was a noticeable decline in sales for the album Life as We Know It, although “That Ain’t Love” and “In My Dreams” were top-20 U.S. hits. 

While the 1980s began for REO Speedwagon on the highest of notes, the end of the 80s saw the pendulum swing the other way. The lineup of the band was revised as they entered the new decade. However, the two albums released in the 1990s did not do well. As a consequence, the label opted to release prior recordings with updated artwork, as well as a number of greatest hits albums. 

REO Speedwagon has never left the music arena and never disbanded. They have toured with Styx and Don Felder, Pat Benatar, Def Leppard and Chicago. They have performed at benefits, released an online video game and a Christmas album and in 2017 received the Diamond Award for official U.S. sales of over 10 million copies for their album Hi Infidelity. 

Although REO Speedwagon remains a quintessential 80s band, they’ve taken their 80s success and continued to do what they love, play their music and share it with their fans - fans who continue to enjoy hearing the music they grew up with and still connect to. Lead singer, Kevin Cronin began the evening with a perfectly fitting story. He recalled the band playing in a small venue in their early years, when they had only one popular song. The band would leave the song until the end, to keep fans from leaving. Cronin dreamed of having a day when they’d have  enough hits to fill the show. How proud he felt now, to be able to fill the show with REO Speedwagon hits. The resounding cheers of the audience was an indication that those in attendance agreed that Cronin and his bandmates should be proud of their still much beloved music. 

It’s been close to 40 years since many of these songs were written and originally sung by the band. However, Cronin continues to sing with the same passion and emotion and the band plays with an energy and excitement that shows the gratitude they obviously feel to the fans who’ve kept them going for the past 4 decades.

SET LIST

Don’t Let Him Go
In Your Letter
Keep Pushin’
Tough Guys
Can’t Fight This Feeling
Time for Me to Fly
Back on the Road Again
Take It on the Run
Ridin’ the Storm Out
Keep On Loving You
Roll With the Changes
Listen to Her Heart (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers cover)
 
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