Concert Review: REO Speedwagon Still Rocking Steady After 55 Years
South Florida Gen X music lovers got a nostalgic dose as longtime rockers REO Speedwagon rolled into the Pompano Beach Amphitheater packing the intimate venue on a picture-perfect night, bringing the ’70s and ’80s back with a thrilling spot-on performance, delivering the radio hits that made them famous.
After more than 55 years and 16 studio albums along with millions of fans, REO continues to draw steady numbers of intergenerational fans to their shows, perhaps in part because they deliver a consistent show nearly every night and have settled into a lineup that delivers exactly what everyone has come to expect; a rocking good time. With Neal Doughty, the lone remaining original band member, recently unplugging his keyboard and retiring from touring, it leaves just frontman Kevin Cronin as the longest-tenured band member, joining REO five years after its formation; he has been on all but four of the band’s albums. The replacement for Doughty happened via Cronin’s longtime friend Rick Springfield, who recommended his former keyboardist Derek Hilland for the slot. Hilland’s experience extends beyond the 16 years as Springfield’s keyboardist, having toured with Whitesnake and Foreigner. He joins bassist Bruce Hall, guitarist Dave Amato, and drummer Bryan Hitt.
Just like most of the audience, the band is a little older, too, and Cronin no longer has his 1980s-era big hair, but he can still belt out the high notes on ballads like “Time for Me to Fly,” “Keep on Loving You,” and “Riding the Storm Out.” He and the band gave the audience a chance to hear “Keep the Fire Burnin'” and “Building the Bridge,” a couple of songs from two other albums that are not part of their regular live performance setlist. The band’s most popular album, the 1980 classic Hi Infidelity, was their biggest-selling album going ten times platinum (Diamond status) and has carried the band until this day with hits like “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Take It on the Run.”
One thing is clear, the smiles on the faces of the band remind us that they still enjoy performing and engaging with their audience, making each concert a unique memorable experience.
Because of the relatively simple staging, there wasn’t anything to distract the audience from the music; in fact, this worked well for this type of show. Fans remained focused on the band’s sound and joined them in a sing-along for nearly the entire concert. Many fans could be seen dancing at their seats and in the aisles during the 65-minute performance.
How many more years Cronin’s voice will remain strong is the biggest question, but, until then, REO Speedwagon remains relevant and continues to deliver a solid show every night. As the generation of fans who grew up listening to them ages, prefers to watch Netflix, and has less desire to go to a concert, will the demand for ’80s bands continue? Who knows, but for now they still sell out shows every night and continue to tour every year with a steady schedule of 20-plus shows a year. If you get a chance, catch them before they retire as they will… eventually.
Setlist: Don’t Let Him Go, Music Man, Take It on the Run, Keep Pushin’, Live Every Moment (Interlude of Crosby, Stills &… more ), That Ain’t Love, Tough Guys, Can’t Fight This Feeling, Son of a Poor Man, Keep the Fire Burnin’, Building the Bridge (joined by three members of ‘LEVON’ on backing vocals), Time for Me to Fly, Back on the Road Again (Bruce Hall lead vocals), Ridin’ the Storm Out; Encore: Keep On Loving You, Roll With the Changes