Ocean City Inlet Parking Lot
Friday, September 18
On a hot and humid September night, while some bikers were gassing up their bikes to journey to the many happenings that were going on for the weekend of festivities, I was at the station, too, but only to fill my bike’s tires with air to make the journey down the boardwalk to the REO Speedwagon concert at the inlet. I arrived just before the show started and saw quite a few locals heading into the tent as well that was packed to capacity. At 6:30 lead singer Kevin Cronin appeared onstage alone to share with the audience that just a few days earlier the band had lost original member Gary Richrath. He continued to talk about the early days and times they had spent together. After rambling on for a few more minutes, he finally said that Gary would have said, “Kevin, shut up and play some Rock-n-Roll.” With that the rest of the band, Dave Amato on lead guitar, Bruce Hall on bass, Neal Doughty on keyboards and Bryan Hitt on drums, came out and began with Hitt pounding out the beginning to "Don't Let Him Go" - and the show was off and running. Next up was "Music Man" and "Take it on the Run," the first of 6 songs they played off their 1980 album Hi Infidelity, the album that Cronin said began the band’s stardom. Hall then took over vocal duty on "Someone Tonight" that he penned for the Hi Infidelity album.
The band sounded in top form that just goes to show that an older band can still go on tour and still do justice to those songs. As with most of the older bands on the road, it’s mostly a greatest hits show and that seemed to work well for tonight’s audience. Next Cronin said, “Hello, Ocean City, Md. You have a nice place here looking out at the Atlantic Ocean!” The band then continued with "Keep Pushin," "In Your Letter," "Can't Fight This Feeling," "That Ain’t Love" and "Tough Boys," as Cronin, Amato and Hall played from side to side of the stage for all to get a close-up view of the members. Through these songs Amato changed guitars quite often and Cronin went from electric to acoustic. Amato's double neck guitar was then brought out for the song "Time For Me To Fly," a song Cronin wrote about an ex-lover back in the day, and another song for crowd participation. Hall then sang another of his compositions, "Back on the Road Again." To close out their first set, Cronin sat at a piano to the right of Hitt and started playing the notes to "Roll With the Changes;" then took a few bows and left the stage.
After a short break they returned to open with "Keep On Loving You." Cronin then went back to the piano and with the sounds of thunder coming from the speakers and Hitt banging a huge gong behind his drum kit, the band went into "Ridin' the Storm Out." I've covered these guys a few times and so I thought that it was the end of their show; but now Cronin addresses the crowd again by saying that since the band played a lot in their early days in the Detroit area, there was only one man who could represent the state and that was Ted Nugent. Dave Amato took over lead vocals for a cover of "Stranglehold," then segued right into Tom Petty's "Listen To Her Heart." The band ended their night with Van Morrison's "GLORIA" to thunderous applause from the crowd. Then the band all came front and center and started throwing guitar picks and drum sticks with many waves of thanks and farewell before exiting the stage. Wow, like I said, I've seen these guys a few times before but never ending their show like that. It was a real treat and the crowd definitely got their money’s worth for the show.
If anyone is interested, the closest to us that REO Speedwagon is playing is at Harrah's in Atlantic City, NJ, on Saturday, October 24th. This is a very small and intimate venue so I would recommend that fans should see them there if they can make it. If not, please check out their website at www.reospeedwagon.com
– Gary Crouthamel, concert photojournalist