Styx and REO Speedwagon ride the heat wave out at sold-out show

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REO Speedwagon // photo credit Chris Ortiz

REO Speedwagon & Styx

with Loverboy

Starlight Theatre

Tuesday, June 14

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The crowd at Starlight. // Photo by Chris Ortiz

Everywhere you look, there’s a sea of people clapping off beat, wearing khakis, baseball caps, and band t-shirts that might have actually seen the ’80s. The crowd is mostly seated—a congregation of mostly older white people. Men with mullets and aviators strut down the sidewalks. Plastic beer cups are quickly drained. Blowouts fall flat due to the heat. When you’re more likely to smell cigarettes than weed, you know you’re keeping company with Baby Boomers. And attending an outdoor show during a heat advisory? That’s just rock and roll.

Styx and REO Speedwagon performed their Live & UnZoomed tour with special guest Loverboy on Tuesday. Styx and REO Speedwagon have both hit their 50-year mark, so it makes sense that their primary audience is older. Although not everyone in attendance was up for hours of standing, the crowd was roaring. According to REO lead singer Kevin Cronin, Kansas City was the first location to sell out when their tour was announced.

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Styx. // Photo by Chris Ortiz

After Loverboy opened, Styx took the stage. Lead singer and keyboardist Lawrence Gowan kept the energy high by pulling out tricks like playing the keys one-handed, jumping around and on top of various parts of the set, and… Irish step dancing? However strange his methods, he won the affection of the audience, especially when he costume-changed into a black sequined jacket and top hat. Guitarist and singer Tommy Shaw was also channeling youthful energy in white skinny jeans and a flowy blouse.

Drummer Todd Sucherman never played a song to which he didn’t devote 100%. He has been nominated in four categories for the 2022 Modern Drummer Reader’s Poll. He’s previously won the top honors in categories such as Rock Drummer, Live Drummer, and Recorded Performance. Styx’s band members didn’t seem to be running away from their age but rather acknowledged it without letting it stunt them.

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REO Speedwagon. // Photo by Chris Ortiz

The one exception was Chuck Panozzo, co-founder and bass player, who stepped onstage for two songs. Given that he is 73 and likely wary of heat stroke, this is understandable. Ricky Phillips on the five-string bass guitar was the least flashy of the bunch but had a no less important role in keeping the group on track. At the end of the set, the band members all held hands and bowed endearingly like a group of theatre kids finishing their first high school production.

The announcer put in a plug for a drawing for a guitar signed by Loverboy, Styx, and REO Speedwagon. The cost of raffle tickets will be donated to Homeless Military Veterans, sponsored by Rock to the Rescue, the charity founded by Styx and REO in 2001.

Whether it was because of the energy level brought back to the stage or because their buzz had worn off, there was significantly less dancing from the crowd during REO’s performance. Initially, the songs felt wilted, although the pace picked up during the choruses. Cronin, along with bass guitarist Bruce Hall, put up a valiant effort, but couldn’t channel the same spontaneous kinetic energy as Styx.

The level of crowd interaction was high, although the mood dimmed and the pace slowed. Audience members turned on their flashlights and held their phones above their heads (keeping them stagnant—but at least they tried) for “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” Founding member and keyboardist Neal Doughty made a well-received appearance during the performance of the track.

Classic rock, summer, and nostalgia fit together like puzzle pieces, forming a clear picture of a night to remember for Midwest rockers.

Photos by Chris Ortiz (Insta: @fastboyent).

REO Speedwagon



The crowd

Categories: Music