Styx, REO Speedwagon can’t stop rockin’

A reviiew of Styx, REO Speedwagon at the Comcast Center on June 28, 2009

, Contributing Writer

The "Can’t Stop Rockin’" tour featuring Styx, REO Speedwagon, and .38 Special hit the Comcast Center on Sunday night bringing a classic rock tour vibe and a package of hits that had the mature crowd dancing like it was 1984. Co-headliners Styx and REO Speedwagon made use of the entire Comcast stage with an impressive light show and huge video screen that was often used to highlight the bands progression to where they are today.

Headlining the show on Sunday night was Styx, who played a set that wasn’t surprising in its construction but kept the audience engaged throughout nonetheless. Taking the stage in variously styled black suits, the men of Styx launched immediately into “Miss America” as the audience got out of their seats. Next came Tommy Shaw on vocals for “Too Much Time On My Hands” which was a bit overshadowed by excessively loud instrumental support. Lawrence Gowan who spent the night running around his spinning keyboard picked up the vocals on “Grand Illusion” before swapping with Shaw, James Young, and Ricky Phillips on “Lorelei”. Up next was a “Styx-ifying” a cover of The Beatles “I Am The Walrus.”

“Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)”, which featured some energetic guitar playing by Shaw, got the crowd fully engaged and singing along. Slowing things down for a while, the lights on stage dimmed as Gowan slowly began “Suite Madame Blue” which ended with the loudest instrumental delivery of the night for the closing lines “Red, white, and blue, the future is all but past/So lift up your heart, and make a new start/And lead us away from here.”

The band then welcomed original bassist Chucky Panozzo on stage for “Foolin’ Yourself” while current bassist Ricky Phillips showed his skills on the double neck guitar. While the band took a quick rest, Gowan remained on stage alone and started swapping famous song lyrics with the audience, the last of which was “They said come sail away, come sail away/Come sail away with me” before sitting at his keyboard to begin the song that would be the obvious crowd favorite. Gowan was slowly joined by the rest of the band and the guys really amped up the energy for the chorus as fists pumped and moms danced in the aisles. Closing out the song with a red, white, and blue confetti cannon had members of the crowd scrambling for a memento from the show.

Taking the stage for their encore the band flew black and white Styx frisbees into the audience as Shaw and Young exchanged incredible guitar solos before Shaw hauntingly began the opening lyrics of “Hangman”. Closing out the show was a new tune (yes, I did just say there is a new Styx song), “Can’t Stop Rockin’” which featured the members of Styx with tourmates REO Speedwagon and .38 Special. Shaw and REO’s Kevin Cronin shared the lead vocals with the accompaniment of the ultimate 80’s back-up band. The show couldn’t have ended in a better way.

Co-headliners REO Speedwagon delivered an equally impressive set, but while Styx relied more heavily on their instrumental skill, REO banked on the crowd embracing the feel good vibes they were sending out via frontman Kevin Cronin. The band started with “Don’t Let Him Go” before launching right into fan favorite “Take It On The Run”, which quickly became a crowd sing along and provided some sweet nostalgia for the older crowd. Cronin took a few minutes to welcome the crowd before dancing his bejeweled self around stage during “Keep Pushin’” Taking a break from the music to talk with the crowd, Cronin explained that the next song was written at the University of Illinois at Champaign during the Vietnam War and ended with a drawn out, arms in the air proclamation about how we will all “one day return to a life of tranquility and peace” before beginning “Golden Country.”

After leaving the stage for a few minutes leaving the audience to watch a highlight reel of LiveAid, the band returned to the hits with “Can’t Fight This Feeling” as the tell-tale sign that you are at an 80’s show – lighters filled the air. “Son Of A Poor Man” from REO’s third album Ridin’ The Storm Out provided an old-school rock feel combined with some bluesy piano playing on the baby grand by REO original Neal Doughty. Taking another quick break the band returned with “Time For Me To Fly” before bassist Bruce Hall took the spotlight by singing lead vocals on “Back On The Road Again”.

Taking a seat behind the piano Cronin and company ended their set with a great back to back of “Keep On Lovin’ You” that inspired some close dancing in the crowd and got fists pumping with “Roll With The Changes” before an extended jam session played them off stage. Returning moments later the encore began with the song that put REO Speedwagon on the map back in 1973, “Ridin’ The Storm Out.” Officially closing out the set was an extended version of “157 Riverside Avenue” that was a couple of minutes too long but gave Cronin one more chance to preach to the audience, reminding the crowd “don’t take anything for granted, appreciate everyone” before leaving the stage. While it was a slightly cheesy sentiment to end the night on, it was pretty apparent throughout the show that both of these bands are just happy to still be playing, and certainly aren’t taking anything for granted.

Early arrivals were treated to a set from .38 Special.

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