Styx, REO Speedwagon & Loverboy – Freedom Mortgage Pavilion – Camden, NJ – August 13, 2022
Forty years ago this lineup would have filled a stadium. At the time, Styx, REO Speedwagon and Loverboy had three of the five totally essential albums (Paradise Theater, Hi Infidelity and Get Lucky, in order) in the wildly popular arena rock genre. (For the record, the other two essential albums at the time were Journey’s Escape and Foreigner’s 4.)
This new shed tour – a semi-repeat of the 2019 Styx/REO jaunt (only the opening act is different, with Don Felder of the Eagles opening the last tour) – is being put on for two reasons. First of all, it is a return to touring in a post-COVID world. Also, as Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw pointed out at one point, this year is the 50th anniversary of Styx recording. For REO, it’s actually their 51st year of recording. (Anyone else feeling a little old?) Loverboy, the young’uns in the lineup, released their self-titled debut album in 1980.
As Shaw said when discussing his band’s milestone: If you get to do something for 50 years you must be doing something right.
And for the most part this show, a long frolic through the hit-strewn songbooks of three of the biggest bands of the 70s and 80s was mostly a complete success, with the bands knowing their audiences and doling out the goods that they wanted.
Of course, there has been a lot of changes in personnel over the years on these bands. REO only has two original members still in tow, and Styx has two active members of the glory days, although bassist Chuck Panozzo, while no longer an official member of Styx, often shows up to play on a few songs with the band live – as he did this show. However, guitarist James Young, the only full-time original member of the band, was mysteriously not at the show, which Shaw acknowledged right away and assured the audience he would be back very soon.
The show opened with Loverboy’s lean and mean 45-minute sail through some of their biggest – it was all hits, no filler here. Starting off with their final top 40 hit “Notorious,” the band then grinded through such slamming faves and “The Lucky Ones” and “Lovin’ Every Minute of It.” Leader Mike Reno’s voice has lost a bit of the range of his heyday, but the band sounded tight, and Reno did all that was possible to keep the fans engaged. By the time the band pulled into their penultimate singles “Turn Me Loose” and particularly a playful “Working for the Weekend,” he had the crowd in his pocket.
REO Speedwagon took the stage next. Early on in the show, long-time lead singer Kevin Cronin acknowledged that he had turned 70, but you would have never known it from his performance. The dude’s voice was just as supple as in the band’s hit-making days, and he ran around the stage like a man half his age.
From the stage Cronin described the group’s fare as Midwest meat-and-potatoes rock and that’s what they delivered, a heaping helping of the group’s anthems, slightly heavy on the Hi Infidelity – which makes sense, that was by far the band’s biggest album.
They opened the door with what is to my tastes the band’s best single – although it is not the most well-remembered one – the poptastic “Don’t Let Him Go.” They brought out the big guns almost immediately, doing a yearning version of their smash “Take it on the Run” second. Then they did a wild tour through the band’s diverse playbook, from older songs like “Keep Pushin’” and “Ridin’ the Storm Out” through later singles like “That Ain’t Love” and “Live Every Moment.” Cronin even ceded the lead vocals to bassist Bruce Hall for a slamming “Back on the Road Again.”
However, they really brought the house down with the big hits, from a mid-show version of classic power ballad “Can’t Fight This Feeling” through to the closing classics “Keep on Loving You” and “Riding the Storm Out.”
Closing the night was Styx. As has been the case for years, since the ugly musical divorce with former singer and keyboardist Dennis DeYoung, this iteration of Styx tends to focus on the more rock-based tunes of Shaw over the more ballad-driven songs of DeYoung. In fact, Shaw really had to do some verbal calisthenics onstage to try to tell the story of Styx’ original formation (which Shaw was not a part of, he joined the band in 1975 in time to record their fourth album Crystal Ball) while pointedly not mentioning DeYoung at all.
Honestly, I’ve always preferred Shaw’s rockers (although I liked lots of the DeYoung songs as well). Also, Lawrence Gowan took DeYoung’s place long ago (in fact, believe it or not, Gowan has now been with the band longer than DeYoung was) and he takes over on the lead vocals for favorite songs like “Lady,” “Rocking the Paradise,” “Come Sail Away” and others.
Unlike the other two bands, Styx actually had a new album out to promote, and did a couple of tracks from the pandemic-recorded Crash of the Crown – the title track and “Sound the Alarm.” Surprisingly, although not as well-known the two songs fit into the setlist pretty well, feeling like classic Styx.
The band also pulled some nuggets from the vault – like a spritely version of “Light Up” from the 1975 Equinox album. (Personal note to Tommy Shaw, though, no matter what you said from the stage it was not particularly radical to do a pro-pot song in 1975, in fact there were quite a few of those at least a decade earlier.) Gowan also did an interesting medley of the instrumental “Khedive,” Genesis’ “Turn in On Again,” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”
However, the band really shone on the bigger hits, with Shaw shredding through “Blue Collar Man” and “Fooling Yourself” and doing a playful version of “Too Much Time on My Hands.” Then they ended on a fun note, doing an encore version of “Mr. Roboto” (!), which the band rarely played for years, so that was a fun surprise. Then they brought the house down with the song that is arguably Shaw’s classic, the life-on-the-run slammer “Renegade.”
Then the gig was up, the news was out, and it looks like, for one night at least, you can go home again.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2022 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 16, 2022.
Photos by Kayla Marra © 2022.