Every summer in June, thousands of families pack downtown Shawnee for Old Shawnee Days. During this festival, there are a wide assortments of carnival games, rides, and greasy food to be had. In addition to all that sugary, greasy, gut-wrenching stuff, the 50th annual Shawnee Days hosted 80’s pop group, Loverboy. The concert was Saturday night, and the best part about it all was its price: FREE!
For any of you out there that happen to be unfamiliar with Loverboy, they hail from The Great White North. They came on to the scene in 1979, originating in Calgary, Alberta. Loverboy’s lineup is Mike Reno on vocals, Paul Dean on guitar, Doug Johnson on keyboards, Matt Frenette on drums, and Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve on bass. The lineup has only changed once since the band’s formation (the death of the original bass player in 2000)
The back area of the fairgrounds was absolutely packed to the gills with people wanting to get this eighties party started. Later in the show, we would find out that this was the largest turnout for a band for Old Shawnee Days.
The set kicked off with “Notorious,” from 1987’s album Wildside. From here on out, the eighties nostalgia wouldn’t end until the band exited the stage. The set continued with “Lucky Ones” and “Queen of a Broken Heart”. A keyboard solo during Queen mixed up the otherwise wailing guitars, and screeching vocals from Mike Reno. Before and after the sets, Mike Reno would make quips about the 80s, like “Do you guys remember when MTV played music videos?” It would be no surprise that he would long for those earlier days; the 80’s were the band’s time to shine. They earned awards, sold millions of records, and had massive airplay on the radio and MTV during this time.
After blasting through some well-known singles and warming the crowd up, Loverboy turned their attention to “Take Me to the Top”. The band did a seriously extended version of this song, and somehow transitioned into “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors, then came back to “Take Me to the Top.” I had to double-check the notes I had compared to the set list – I honestly thought they had knocked out a few more songs during that extended play. Not my cup of tea, but if you’re into long jams from Loverboy, I bet you’d be lovin’ every minute of it.
OK, damn, we’re only four songs in now. That about sums up my attention span at this concert. You can’t blame me, though – they weren’t selling any hooch at this festival. Alright folks, strap in, because this nostalgia trip ain’t over yet.
Loverboy continued the spandex soiree with “It’s Your Life”, and their very first single “The Kid is Hot Tonight” (to be fair, it was pretty warm that night). They slowed it down for a big and got steamy with “This Could Be the Night” (It was definitely my night for delicious fried foods) and got the ladies going with “Hot Girls in Love” (again, I am not doubting that the girls were hot…it is summer in Kansas City.)
“Turn Me Loose” was the 10th song of the night. At this point, I would have wanted to be turned loose, but the bass line was infectious, I started recognizing the songs, and I wasn’t too gorged on city fair food to be completely miserable. And of course, the crowd was going absolutely nuts for this.
The strong sound of cowbell permeated the air after the last song. Fun fact, 2 years ago, I saw Blue Oyster Cult play for the same festival (and you can see our coverage of that by clicking here). SNL’s skit featuring their song “Don’t Fear the Reaper” features a heavy cowbell. I thought at the show 2 years ago we’d be treated with an obnoxious amount of cowbell, but we only got a small smattering of it. Now back to the cowbell of Loverboy. After “Turn Me Loose”, the band started rocking out to “Working for the Weekend”- the anthem for the working man, trying to get through the week and party for the weekend. Despite Loverboy actually having to work for the weekend and entertain the masses, they really did do a bang up job on this song.
At this point, I didn’t expect an encore. The band played a great long set for being a free show. But soon enough, the audience was treated to a hearty drum solo. Matt Frenette still has those skills with the sticks, that’s for sure.
“Lovin Every Minute of It” was after the drum solo. And indeed, the crowd was still going wild after the lengthy set. Finally, the band closed with “Jump”.
Old Shawnee Days will continue to entertain the city of Shawnee for years to come. With every year in festivities, another classic rock band will come and play to the masses. To be honest, Loverboy isn’t my type of music. To be doubly honest, city fairs really aren’t my thing either. BUT, to come all this way, pack the fairgrounds, play for free, and do a pretty damn good job of it, even after 37 years…well, that has to count for something.
Photos by Josh Chaikin
Words by Dallas Hessel