REO Speedwagon and Chicago Delivered With Nostalgic Show in Saint Louis Saturday

REO Speedwagon performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Saint Louis Saturday. Photo by Greg Artime.

–By Ashley Cox

–Photos by Greg Artime

I have to admit with the run of Saint Louis heat, I was dreading spending hours outside on Saturday, June 23rd, but nature gave us a reprieve and the weather was amazing for the REO Speedwagon & Chicago 2018 North American Summer Tour.  The Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre is one of my favorite venues in the Lou. The parking is included in the ticket and you can bring your own bottle of water.

Chicago performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Saint Louis Saturday. Photo by Greg Artime.

 

What you can’t do is bring a lawn chair higher than 9” (think standard lawn chairs). Beach chairs and blankets are allowed and you can rent chairs at the venue. What you shouldn’t do is yell at security like a petulant child when they say that your chair is too tall and you need to take it back to your car. Also, you shouldn’t continue to yell at them after they comp you a chair rental.

 

Yeah, dude, it was a bad look and no one in the immense, yet quickly moving, line was on your side.

REO Speedwagon performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Saint Louis Saturday. Photo by Greg Artime.

 

I arrived fairly early and had time to people watch before the opener. Going to shows in a variety of genres helps you notice trends. For small touring, indie bands you wouldn’t be caught dead in a concert tee for that and, instead, opting for the most obscure band you could think of. This was the opposite. A variety of REO Speedwagon and Chicago shirts could be seen in the crown with the winner having the oldest tee.

 

Michael Tolcher of Atlanta was a solid opener. He didn’t introduce himself until halfway through the set and with his laid-back blue jeans and tee could have mistaken for someone wandering out of the crowd. My favorite original song was “Orion’s Belt” written for his son who will be born next week. Congrats, Michael!

Chicago performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Saint Louis Saturday. Photo by Greg Artime.

 

Next up was my favorite of the night; REO Speedwagon. I stole my dad’s copy of their The Hits (Remastered) during high school and listened to it incessantly. Kevin Cronin’s unique way of drawing out vowels was the soundtrack to summery days in the Texas heat. They did not disappoint. You guys, they started their set at 7:29… 1 minute before listed set time! That never happens. And they were ready to go. Voices warmed up. Instruments tuned. Cronin looked out on the crowd and noted “rock n roll keeps us young.” I respectfully disagree. I have been going to concerts regularly since early college and have seen the wear and tear on bands from lengthy and consistent touring. REO Speedwagon clearly, though, takes care of themselves.

REO Speedwagon performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Saint Louis Saturday. Photo by Greg Artime.

 

Being a transplant to Saint Louis, and not being alive in the 70s, I was unaware of the band’s lengthy history with the city. The band took a moment to thank KSHE 95 for helping launch their careers and noted their popularity in Saint Louis was high even before they became well known. Cronin hit every note perfectly while Dave Amato slayed on the guitar. Bass player Bruce Hall took center stage to perform lead vocals on “Back On the Road Again.” Founding member Neal Doughty killed it on synths and keyboard. Bryan Hitt maintained that frenzied high that only drummers possess. Every song was spot on but my favorite had to be the life changing renditions of “Take It on the Run,” the set’s energetic closer (and my Dad’s favorite song) “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” and an encore tribute to Tom Petty “Listen to Her Heart.” The band’s vocals melded together to get those rich harmonies found in Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker songs. It must have suddenly become very dusty as my eyes were watering.

REO Speedwagon performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Saint Louis Saturday. Photo by Greg Artime.

 

Next up was the hardcore Chicago fan’s dream, two full-length sets. The band performed the entirety of their Chicago II, in honor of the album’s consideration for the Grammy Hall of Fame, followed by an additional set of greatest hits for a total of 31 songs. Before we go further, I need to admit that I have a slight bias against Chicago through no fault of their own. Freshman year of high school, the marching band performed Chicago’s greatest hits and as part of the dance team, I had to stand in formation the entire set. Late summer in Texas is a mosquito filled mess and I stood there, stock still, sweating and getting eaten alive.

Chicago performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Saint Louis Saturday. Photo by Greg Artime.

 

“25 or 6 to 4” is still my jam though. It is the touch point of what I associate with Chicago and the band brought a great energy to that song. What I didn’t realize is that a majority of Chicago II is milder in nature. I would love to have seen this album performed in an orchestra hall, perhaps the Fabulous Fox or Powell Hall, where the lively horns and smooth voices were not competing with people’s excessive alcohol consumption and distracting lighting rigs. Maybe this could happen in the future, as founding member Robert Lamm noted that they have never considered the possibility of just playing an album in its entirety before.

Chicago performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Saint Louis Saturday. Photo by Greg Artime.

 

The crowd maintained a reverent silence during songs but lost their minds between them, cheering when those familiar opening chords rang out. “If You Leave Me Now,” “Saturday in the Park,” and “You’re the Inspiration” were some personal standouts. Current pop culture fans will be disappointed to note that no Deadpool references were made during “You’re the Inspiration” though they would have seemed out of place with the graphics of various forms of the iconic Chicago logo.

Chicago performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Saint Louis Saturday. Photo by Greg Artime.

 

This tour pairing seemed like a no-brainer to me and it must feel that way to bands as they have done it multiple times before. Yet I was struck by the two very different feelings given off. This is the same genre yet the wailing guitar and synth of REO Speedwagon feels so different from the brassy and soaring Chicago. There was a cool breeze on my way to the car surrounded by happy fans. Everyone seemed to be leaving in a great mood… probably even the lawn chair guy.

Stick around for a gallery of great shots by Greg Artime after the setlists.

REO Speedwagon Setlist:

Don’t Let Him Go

In Your Letter

Keep Pushin’

Can’t Fight This Feeling

Tough Guys

That Ain’t Love

Take It On The Run

Time For Me to Fly

Back on the Road Again

Ridin’ The Storm Out

Encore:

Keep On Loving You

Roll With the Changes

Listen to Her Heart (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)

 

Chicago Setlist Set A:

Movin’ In

The Road

Poem for the People

In the Country

Wake Up Sunshine

Make Me Smile

So Much to Say, So Much to Give

Anxiety’s Moment

West Virginia Fantasies

Colour My World

To Be Free

Now More Than Ever

Fancy Colours

Memories of Love

It Better End Soon

Where Do We Go From Here

25 or 6 to 4

Set 2: 

Beginnings

Questions 67 & 68

If You Leave Me Know

Dialogue (Part I & II)

Cal on Me

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

Hard Habit to Break

You’re the Inspiration

I’m a Man (The Spencer Davis Group cover)

Street Player

Just You ‘n’ Me

Hard to Say I’m Sorry/Get Away

Saturday in the Park

Feelin’ Stronger Every Day

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *