The Auditorium was packed and though there were seats still available, they were far and few between. The crowd was proof REO Speedwagon has made an impact on people. REO Speedwagon soared to the top when high pitch notes, and sappy love songs were growing in popularity. Long hair with tons of hairspray and denim from head to toe was day to day attire. It was a time when people just enjoyed their youth; enjoyed their friends; enjoyed hanging out at the mall and working their little part-time jobs that helped them make ends meet until the next week. Big hair band anthem-like ballads ruled the music world and fans couldn’t get enough of it. People don’t forget what helped them through bad days after a break up or what music kept them focused on their drive to work when their eyes were all but shut. That is where bands like REO Speedwagon came in. Even today, they pick you up when you’re feeling down. Age is only a number and these guys proved that beyond measure tonight as they took everyone back to a time when things were a little simpler and life was a little less responsibility driven.
On stage, the band members consisting of vocalist, Kevin Cronin, guitarist, Dave Amato, bassist, Bruce Hall, keyboardist, Neal Doughty, and drummer, Bryan Hitt have so much charisma and chemistry. They are true professionals and the love for what they do is apparent in every aspect of their performance. You can’t expect any less from a band with experience dating back to 1972 and over 47 years collaboratively.
Throughout the night, Kevin playfully kept the crowd engaged by providing memories of how REO Speedwagon got their start, what songs propelled them into their career, and how they’ve kept it going all these years. Kevin smiled as he mentioned that this being the first time they’d visited Macon, the size of this crowd was proof that rock and roll is still alive and well and that music will keep you young forever. During moments of band member introduction, Kevin reflected on the addition of Dave to the band in 1989 and even though that is 20 years ago, he is still the “new guy”. Dave filled the shoes of the late great guitar player Gary Richrath who left the band in 1989. Gary died in 2015. Gary’s hero was Dickey Betts, the founding member of The Allman Brothers, so Kevin celebrated their ability to play right here in Macon on a stage where Dickey Betts once played. He further testified that he knows spiritually that Gary is with them and plays with them every night they play. Later he thanked Bruce for his 47 years of friendship. As Bruce sang the vocals to “Back on the Road Again”, the crowd cheered with excitement because sometimes different is pretty damn good. As the show neared its’ end, there was a short, significant, and powerful drum solo by Bryan Hitt that activated another boost of energy throughout the crowd but before the night was over, Kevin clarified what he felt shot them to the top and why. Around 4am one morning in 1980, he woke up from a dead sleep with three simple piano chords in his mind. Instead of forcing himself back to sleep, he grabbed his Sony Walkman to record what would be the beginning of the song that would change their lives forever. That song became an instant hit. That song is “Keep On Loving You” and it is just as popular today as it was when it originated. When those three chords are heard, they instantly produce a musical high that cannot be challenged. The band ended the night with a cover of “Listen To Her Heart”; their tribute to the late Tom Petty.
What a band. What an absolutely outstanding show from start to finish. See the full set list below.
Don’t Let Em’ Go
In Your Letter
Can’t Fight This Feeling
Son Of A Poor Man
Take It On The Run
Time For Me To Fly
Back On The Road Again (Bruce Hall on vocals)
Ridin' The Storm Out
Keep On Lovin' You
Roll With The Changes
Listen To Your Heart (Tom Petty cover)
Band website: http://reospeedwagon.com/