Concert Review: REO Speedwagon proves they can't stop rockin'

After performing for more than three decades, REO Speedwagon delivered another high-energy performance July 1 at Davis Park. The originally Champaign-based classic rock band is touring this summer to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its most successful release, Hi Infidelity. This record reached No. 1 on the charts and spawned the hit singles “Keep On Loving You” and “Take It On The Run.”

While REO spotlighted Hi Infidelity songs, it showcased tracks from all phases of its career throughout the night. Fans responded particularly well to “Time For Me To Fly,” a liberating ballad that many audience members sang word for word. The track’s composer and REO’s lead singer, Kevin Cronin, explained that he moved from Chicago to Boulder, Colo. after the dissolution of his first relationship and was inspired to write the song while gazing at the Rocky Mountains.

“Like You Do,” a climatic jam from the band’s phenomenal 1972 album, R.E.O./T.W.O., emerged as another highlight. This explosive rocker showcased each musician’s individual talents as well as the band’s cohesive delivery. Although REO has experienced a few lineup changes during its career, the current incarnation has been playing together for 15 years.

The band also performed a track from its new album, which is set to be released in the spring of next year. It’s been nine years since REO’s last studio album, Building The Bridge was released, but the time off doesn’t seem to have stifled the band’s creativity.

“When you have new songs, it just puts fire in the whole band,” Cronin said.

“Smiling In The End” proves REO certainly has not lost any speed over the years. With distorted guitars and defiant lyrics, this aggressive number is a great addition to the band’s repertoire. It also continues a long-running theme in the group’s music of sustaining life’s hardships and emerging as a stronger person.

In one of his many stories, Cronin told the audience that there is a direct correlation between the state of the band members’ personal lives and the quality of their music. He explained that the crazier their lives are, the better music they produce.

“It is with mixed feelings that I announce that at this time our personal lives are a frickin’ mess,” Cronin said as the crowd erupted in laughter.

The group ended the show with a one-song encore of “Ridin’ The Storm Out.” From the first siren-like organ note to the dizzying guitar solos, REO perfectly conveyed the intensity and passion of this illustrious rocker.

Although the band delivered an energetic and inspired performance, the entire show was less than an hour and a half. With more than 30 years of material, REO could have included a few more hits and returned for more than a single song encore. Despite this drawback, the group did not waste a minute of its performance and gave fans a great mix of its older and more recent songs.

From the July 6-12, 2005, issue

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