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CONCERT REVIEW - REO SPEEDWAGON, STYX, & LOVERBOY @ FIVEPOINT AMPITHEATRE, IRVINE CA (07.16.22)

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Growing up, riding in my dad’s truck in Bay Area of California, his favorite radio station to listen to was the Boneyard! There they would play all the greats from the 70s and 80s hard rock and metal genre. It’s really what cultivated my love for what we call Classis Rock now. My mom loved playing the lighter side of rock music from the 70s & 80s, and it gave me a very well-rounded appreciation for this type of music. My mom’s favorite band from her childhood was Styx. She would play them often growing up, and because of this, I developed my own love for this band. So much so, that my mom and I have seen them live together over 10 times now. And when Styx was coming to the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine, CA, it was time to add another tally mark to how many times we see them together. This time they were doing a co-headlining tour with REO Speedwagon, and having Loverboy be the opening band. We walked into the venue that night to see everyone pulling out their tight leather pants, and best cheetah print tops. This night, we walked back into the 80s.

Opening the night was the Calgary natives, Loverboy. Growing up I never really heard of this band by name. I sadly believe you could talk to a lot of millennials, and they wouldn’t know the band Loverboy by name. Which is a real shame. But I can guarantee that everyone has heard the song “Working for the Weekend.” It is an 80s staple that has been in the cultural zeitgeist since it was released. So, if Loverboy could put on a show that lived up to the legacy of this song, I knew we were in for a fantastic show. Lead singer Mike Reno still has the pipes to sing in a big Amphitheatre and hit the back of the venue. The power he pulls out in his vocals is something most other singers past 60 can’t always do. Guitarist Paul Dean and keyboardist Doug Johnson brought the melodies that got all the dancers out of their seats. Bassist Ken Sinnaeve was still moving and grooving around the stage like he’s never left his 20’s. Striking poses for every lady in the crowd. Drummer Matt Frenette was having the time of his life behind the kit, and he effortlessly blasted away through the songs like “Notorious,” “Queen of the Broken Hearts,” “Lovin’ Every Minute of it,” “Turn me Loose,” and of course “Working for the Weekend.” Loverboy proved to me that they are a name that deserves to be more recognizable when it comes to 80s classic bands.

Up next was the first of the two co-headliners, and the band my mom made me fall in love with, Styx! I have seen a lot of shows, I have seen a lot of bands, and I have heard a lot of singers on album verse live. I honestly believe that Styx is one of the best bands that continually sounds just as good live as they do albums. And they have been putting out music Since 1972. Not very many bands can claim they still sound like they did 50 years ago. Guitarist, and one of the vocalists, Tommy Shaw (to quote my mom) 'is still just as dreamy now as he was when Styx first started'. And he hasn’t lost an edge on his guitar playing, singing, or wearing some skintight white pants to drive all the moms crazy. Keyboardist, and second vocalist, Lawrence Gowan is the most spirited on stage. Dancing around the guys throughout the show and standing on his rotating keyboard while belting out the songs. Guitarist, and third vocalist, James “JY” Young blends his guitar playing with Tommy so perfectly, to create some of the catchiest melodies to ever come out of the 70s & 80s. Bassist Ricky Phillips syncs up with drummer Todd Sucherman to create the backline that allows the audience to groove. Though he does not perform with them full time, I am always so happy when original bassist Chuck Panozzo comes out for a couple songs. Styx just put out a new album last year, and they blended their setlist perfectly with new songs and the classic’s that everyone knows. Playing songs like “The Fight of our Lives,” “Grand Illusion,” “Crash of the Crown,” “Light Up,” “Rockin’ the Paradise,” “Too Much Time on My Hands,” “Khedive,” “Come Sail Away,” “Mr. Roboto,” and finishing their set with “Renegade.” Styx always puts on a performance that I feel could match their shows from their younger years.

Closing out this co-headlining night was REO Speedwagon, hitting the stage with “Music Man,” and ready to get the audience moving. Vocalist Kevin Cronin still has the pipes to belt out the REO classics, and a smile on his face the whole show like he never lost his childhood wonder. It was really refreshing to see, as his smile lit up every person in the audience who he made eye contact with. Guitarist Dave Amato and bassist Bruce Hall were just as playful on stage, working both sides of the crowd, and standing back-to-back to each other for a classic rock pose. Drummer Bryan Hitt was not someone who wanted to get forgotten in the back. Having his drum set setup with a huge opening so the fans can see him and how well he plays. All the while, founding member and keyboardist Neal Doughty danced his fingers across the keys. REO Speedwagon may not be known for the most powerful arena rock anthem songs, but they do have some of the biggest power ballads to come across the classic rock music scene. Playing songs like “Take it on the Run,” “Keep Pushin’,” “Tough Guys,” “Can’t Fight this Feeling,” “Don’t Let Him Go,” “Back on the Road Again,” “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” and “Keep on Loving You,” “Roll with the Changes.” There were many times that the fans shined their phone lights out in the crowd to many of these songs.

For any fans of classic rock, this was the show to be at. Throughout the night, each band had classic hits that got the entire crowd singing along. The lead singers could have just sat on stage their entire set, and the audience would have taken care of the vocal duties for each song. It would have been a weird show to experience. But that’s just how beloved these bands and these fans are. That after 50 years, people are still packing an Amphitheatre and singing their hearts out to these songs that Loverboy, Styx, and REO Speedwagon wrote.

 

Matt Martinez

Photojournalist - Orange County

Website: www.instagram.com/red_hareimages Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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