Toronto, ON - On a very warm, very humid August summer evening in Toronto, I hopped in my time machine and travelled back to my childhood. To a time of little care, amazing music, the absolute best cinema, and some of the best fashion ever... umm, well, maybe let's scratch that last one! The 1980s! It was during this decade that I really started to discover music. Yes, in the 70s, I remember listening to my father's Meatloaf LP Bat Out of Hell. With headphones covering my ears so as not to disturb the rest of the family, I heard the motorcycle roar over my head from one ear to the next. I remember my mother listening to Elvis and Kenny Rogers. But it was in the 1980s that I truly discovered music. I turned 10 years old early in the decade, and it was at this point that I started asking Santa for compilation LPs, typically from record label company K-Tel. And it was within these albums that I started to hear this band called REO (which I proudly pronounced "Rio") Speedwagon.
My music taste changed as I got older, to where I was eventually listened to Heavy Metal. In my teen years, I pretty much only attended metal concerts. In my 20s, when grunge was taking hold, I started to see shows like Lollapalooza and the like. As the decades passed, I continued to frequent concerts of metal, hard rock and grunge artists. So there is a ton of musical talent that I just never took the time to go see. Then I turned 45, and my concert dates have seen me attending a lot of shows from bands that I listened to much earlier in my life. There have honestly been a few that I was happy to have seen, but were actually not very good shows. REO Speedwagon was definitely not one of these occasions. They sounded great, they looked great, and I was very happy that I decided to request a photo pass for this event.
Let's start by saying that my time leading up to this event was not enjoyable in the least. Major gridlocks on the highways here due to accidents, lane closures and construction in all directions saw a 75 minute trip home from work, and another 90 minute trip downtown to the venue. Then low and behold, I arrived to a full Budweiser Stage parking lot. In hindsight, this was a good sign, because it meant a sold out show, but for me, at the time, it meant having to find other parking, further away, and a longer walk. Needless to say, I arrived about 20 minutes late and this resulted in missing the opening act, Loverboy. So I nestled in at the Security Gate, anxious for REO Speedwagon's set. As mentioned, it was well worth the hassle to get to the concert!
The band opened their set on the "Live and UnZoomed" tour (an alternating headlining tour with Styx) with "Don't Let Him Go", the title track from their 1980 release Hi Infidelity. This set the stage for the fun that would ensue through the rest of their set. They sounded great! And selfishly, the lighting was superb! It was only as a photographer that I truly noticed concert lighting. For sure, this is out of necessity, but there is nothing better than a superbly lit show.
The second song of the evening was their smash "Take it on the Run". I was a little surprised at this, as the typical setlist will see a band playing their biggest hits much later in the show. And then I kind of reflected and realized that there are many other songs in the catalogue that are of the same ilk as this offering.
Another real pleasure on this evening for me was the stage set. With the way they were set up, all members of the band were completely visible. Clearly for me, that's key. One of the most challenging things is getting a good shot of the drummer. Having him visible is a dream. Even for the crowd, to be able to see the whole band is not a very common situation. There was also lots of movement as the guys used the whole stage in their performance
At the halfway point of their set, lead singer Kevin Cronin tells us a story about a University Engineering Student in Chicago who got together with some friends in 1967 to start a band. The band was named REO Speedwagon. That Engineering Student was a Neal Doughty, the only member since the very beginning. A piano sits at stage right and Neal is seated there. We hear the classic piano introduction to "Can't Fight This Feeling" and the crowd goes wild. I take a look around and I see the glow of thousands of cell phone flashlights. Such a classic concert image. One that I always find very soothing. It makes me smile!
With singing fans, double necked electric guitars, vocals from bassist Bruce Hall, sound bites from The Little Rascals, and a super fun atmosphere, REO Speedwagon put on a great show in from of 16,000 plus fans in Toronto. I will put my hand up here and say I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. I mean, these guys have been around in 8 different decades. It's so crazy to fathom. But you would never tell that, by hearing them on this summer evening!
Show Date: August 16, 2022
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