Yes, it was the ‘80’s all over again in Nashville on Sunday night as these bastions of the arena rock era were on a single bill. Contrary to my old college roommate’s question, I did not wear my Jordace jeans or Members Only jacket. Yes, I know these folks are getting long in the tooth and haven’t have any commercial success for a while, but it was an opportunity to see some of my favorite bands, on the same stage, and relive some old memories.
Right off the bat, you noticed that the crowd was older, like uh middle age. Yikes – that’s me. Going into the show, I wondered how these three could fill Sommet’s 15,000+ seats. Well, with a little bit (ok, a lot) of strategically placed curtains, the arena was now about a 6,000 seat arena. The stage was set directly under the jumbotron with curtains blocking off the half behind the stage. Also, the entire upper level (300 section) was curtained off. One thing I will give the bands, they know how to keep a show moving. Night Ranger came out right at 7:00 and except for an issue with Styx’s keyboard, the time between bands was right at 15 -20 minutes. They know that most of the folks there were out past their bedtime and had to go to work on Monday.
Night Ranger – Ironically, the first (and only) time I saw Night Ranger, they opened for KISS in Huntsville, AL, so it was kind of like déjà vu. They powered through a 45 minute set with the energy that Jack Blades is known for. I mean, the guy never stops moving. NR’s drummer, Kelly Keagy (who lives in Nashville) had his drum kit set out front on the main stage (vs in the back) with it turned with the front of the set facing stage right. This worked well since Kelly has lead vocals on some songs. The highlight of the set was when Jack Blades invited Tommy Shaw (Styx) out and they sang Damn Yankees’ HIGH ENOUGH. Granted, only half of DY was present, it was good to hear the song live & plugged again. Do you realize it has been 20 years since Damn Yankees was released? Wow.
REO Speedwagon – Having seen REO numerous times before, my expectation was set kind of high. Sadly, I would say this was the least of the three bands. While they performed all the songs they were supposed to, it just didn’t have the energy that it once had. Even the songs sounded about a half a beat slower. They did do ROLL WITH THE CHANGES which happens to be in my top five songs of all times. They were joined on the chorus by Martina McBride and Brad Paisley. Lead singer Kevin Cronin mentioned that when they were starting out, they played every club they could, including a “…skanky rock & roll club called the Exit/In.” With that reference they dug way back to REO T.W.O. (recorded in Nashville) for Golden Country. The one most vivid memory of prior REO shows evidently has been taken away by the fire marshal – the flash pots at the end of RIDIN’ THE STORM OUT. I recall the heat from those things as they exploded at the end of the song. Now, it is a laser light and a small jump by the band. The price of age…..
Styx – If you don’t know the band’s history, Dennis DeYoung left the band a decade or so ago due to “internal tensions”. Tommy Shaw has taken the mantle of band leader and run with it. He was quoted at one time as saying “If I have to do another song about robots, I will go crazy.” Well, obviously dude outside the Sommet saying “They didn’t do MR. ROBOTO or BABE” didn’t get that word. There were numerous other songs for them to choose and they did. They still have the high energy and put on a great show. Original, now part-time, bassist, Chuck Ponozzo, joined the band about halfway through the set. They also dug back into the archives for classics like Loreli and Suite Madam Blue. They closed their set by inviting REO and Night Ranger back out for a Volunteer Jam style play along. Members from all three bands came out to perform the Shaw/Cronin penned CAN’T STOP ROCKIN.
All in all, it was a good walk down memory lane last night. It also seemed that each band mentioned the hard times we are facing; we know we have people to pick up, etc. Just two thoughts – regardless of political beliefs, I came to listen to music, not a political speech and the people that have lost jobs, etc., probably (at least hopefully) aren’t spending their money on concerts.
Thanks for the memories and hopefully, these guys can still ROCK IN AMERICA for several more years.
Zach, an '80's rockin Tennessee Squire
This Boy Needs to Rock
Sing Me Away
When You Close Your Eyes
High Enough (with Tommy Shaw)
Don't Tell Me You Love Me
You Can Still Rock in America
Don't Let Him Go
Take It on the Run
Can't Fight this Feeling
Son of a Poor Man
Time for Me to Fly
Back on the Road Again
Keep on Loving You
Roll with the Changes (joined by Martina McBride & Brad Paisley)
Riding the Storm Out
Too Much Time on My Hands
I Am the Walrus
Blue Collar Man
Suite Madam Blue
Foolin Yourself (Chuck Ponozzo joins)
Come Sail Away
Can't Stop Rockin
Sharing a Six Pack and Galaxing with Wild Ponies
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