Celebrating over 40 years together, REO Speedwagon packed the Midland Theater, in Kansas City, with an audience of young and old. With a set coming in at close to 90 minutes, the band was able to get through all of their hits, celebrate the Royal’s World Series victory. and pay tribute to Gary Richrath. It was a lot of ground to cover in a short evening, and REO hit the ground running, and kept energy high until the end.
The show opened with Don’t Let Him Go off of their 1980 release Hi Infedelity. It was apparent pretty quickly that Kevin Cronin’s voice has suffered a bit over the years, and he didn’t have the power behind it that he used to. But for a man who’s 64 its forgivable, and he’s clearly still in remarkable shape, with boundless energy, only keeping to center stage while singing, making sure those on all sides were able to see him working his guitar up-close-and-personal.
Things seamlessly transitioned into Music Man from 1977’s You Get what You Pay For, and then radio favorite Take it On the Run also from Hi Infidelity. After playing a string of hits, Kevin Cronin slowed things down, and began telling anecdotes to the audience. He recounted how, after much time on the road, keyboardist Neal Doughty came home to a “Dear John” letter, with her saying she was leaving him for someone who had supplied the band with “party favors.” The punchline being Neal quipping, “Man, I’m really going to miss that guy.” The events inspired the song In Your Letter, which they segued into next.
Kevin also took time, halfway through their show, to pay remembrance to founding member, Gary Richrath, saying ‘Every since the day he passed, we promised to dedicate every show to him. I don’t know how, but I know someday, some way, we will meet again in the Golden Country.” It was a heart-felt tribute.
There was much reason to celebrate on Thursday night, as well. Leading off the show, longtime Kansas City classic rock D.J., Slacker, was given an award for his 25 years on the airwaves, and Kevin shared his memories of Slacker, but also, the Royal’s World Series victory.
Right before the encore, Kevin walked on stage with a paper bag, addressing the audience “We are actually the first rock show to play here at the Midland after the big party yesterday, after the win at the World Series. And, unfortunately, there were a few items left behind that the management asked if I would see if any of you recognized any of the items.” This included an REO Speedwagon t-shirt, and a Royals car flag, which were giveaways for the audience, before he exited the stage and reappeared with the Comissioner’s Trophy, making the audience go ballistic, “This is the real deal!” he exclaimed, holding the trophy high above his head. The trophy sat proudly on his grand piano, as he played the last two songs of the set Keep on Lovin’ You, and Riding the Storm Out.
Kansas City has had a long love affair with REO Speedwagon, and it was clear the feeling was mutual. Apart from having live albums recorded here, Kevin recounted, with pride, the different venues the band had played in, saying they were one of the only bands to play at both Kemper Arena, and Arrowhead Stadium (and with the Rolling Stones being one of the others, they find themselves in very good company).
Though the set was short, and everyone was out of the theater by 10:30, I think anyone would be hard-pressed to be disappointed in the show. REO Speedwagon did what they do best: they played a solid set of classic rock favorites, from saccharine power ballads, to good ol’ rock, plain and simple, with all the passion and energy of men half their age.
Set list: Don’t Let Him Go\Music Man\Take It On The Run\Keep Pushin’\In Your Letter\Can’t Fight This Feeling\That Ain’t Love\Tough Guys\Golden Country\Time for Me to Fly\Back On The Road Again\Roll With The Changes\Keep On Loving You\Ridin’ The Storm Out
Photos and review by Josh Chaikin