REO SPEEDWAGON FALL SHORT IN LOS ANGELES CONCERT
By Gerry Gittelson
Melodicrock.com Los Angeles correspondent
LOS ANGELES - In the context of all rock performances, REO Speedwagon proved relatively entertaining with an hour-long concert set Friday, Aug. 1 at the famed Greek Theatre. Yet based on the American group's own standards through decades of successful arena tours, hit singles and one of the greatest melodic-rock albums of all time in 1981 with 'Hi-Infidelity,' the fivesome pretty much stunk up the place.
Just about every hit song was ruined by intentionally slowing the tempo ' not to mention being tuned down at least one step ' and there was definitely something wrong with the way Kevin Cronin was singing; that's something unusual because Cronin is usually the best thing about REO Speedwagon.
Perhaps this was on off-night because Cronin's voice might have been strained ' sometimes he was kind of talking the lyrics instead of actually singing them ' or perhaps REO Speedwagon felt it was a good idea to slow things down so considerably because they're touring with Chicago, a more mellow act than REO Speedwagon's usual tour-mates like Styx or Journey over the past ten years or so.
At any rate, the whole thing was rather disappointing because surely we were not the only ones who wanted to hear such selections as 'Keep On Loving You' and 'Can't Fight This Feeling' executed just as we remember them from our car radios.
Instead of jumping up and going crazy like most would on a summer weekend night in the band's adopted home city, the crowd mostly remained in their chairs and politely applauded, but it was clear to most of us that something was just not right.
Plus, Cronin did way too much talking between songs, even though he is generally charismatic and delightfully glib, and there were too many unfamiliar selections for such a short set. A lot of big hits were there, but there was a lot of filler, too, with 'Music Man,' 'That Ain't Love' and an abysmal new one called 'Whipping Boy.'
REO Speedwagon was rounded out by guitarist Dave Amato, bassist Bruce Hall (who like usual sang 'Back on The Road Again'), keyboardist Neal Doughty, and aptly named drummer Bryan Hitt.
To be fair, though the concert seemed like a double bill, Chicago played last and were the real headliners, so this was essentially their crowd and not REO Speedwagon's, though back in the day REO was probably bigger at its peak yet has not sold as many records total nor enjoyed as many hits overall.
Chicago killed, even without long-gone original singer Peter Cetera, as the jazzy six-piece really got the crowd going with their catchy soft rock.
Then, after Chicago has been going for a little more than an hour, REO Speedwagon returned to the stage to join in, so there were 11 musicians up there ' including three percussionists ' and together they all played six more songs, including 'Ridin' The Storm Out,' 'Keep On Loving You' and 'Roll With The Changes,' and by this point REO Speedwagon had pretty much salvaged the night and returned to our good graces.
The last song, Chicago's '25 or 6 to 4,' saw the singers from both bands taking turns, and the whole thing was pretty cool.