Styx, REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent brought their nostalgia filled Midwest Rock and Roll Express to the civic center in Roanoke, VA recently. The rock and roll resume of this tour includes over a century of classic rocking and countless hits solidifying these bands contributions to the history of rock. Although the turnout for the show was somewhat light, less than 4000 in attendance, that didn’t discourage the band from giving the fans their money’s worth.
The Motor City Madman opened the show and quickly made an impact on the crowd. Ted is an artist who tends to make more headlines by what he says off-stage rather than what he does on-stage. He proved on this night that his Gibson guitar is like another appendage when he hits the stage. It becomes a piece of him and he just bleeds rock and roll. There were a few familiar faces joining him on-stage including Mick Brown of Dokken fame on drums and original Ted Nugent Band rhythm guitarist Derek St. Holmes.
Uncle Ted let the music do the talking on this night as he put most of his outspoken views on hold. He may not pack as many “hits” as the other two bands on board, but songs such as “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”, “Stranglehold” and his signature song “Cat Scratch Fever” definitely fired up the mostly 40something crowd. He definitely knows how to get a crowd out of their seats and fired up at a show.
Styx took the stage next and displayed an infectious youthful exuberance that many bands half their age don’t have on-stage these days. There were some in attendance who shockingly did not know that Lawrence Gowan was handling lead vocal duties for the band. He’s been doing so for fourteen years now as founding member Dennis DeYoung has been out of the band since 1999. Gowan definitely has a style of his own as you don’t see many keyboardists who actually climb on top of their keyboards and use them as a perch to sing to the audience.
Long time members Tommy Shaw and James “J.Y.” Young really do shine when they hit the stage, especially Shaw. He is like a little kid jacked up on Mountain Dew as he is constantly running around the stage and entertaining the crowd. The band cranked out hit after hit including such staples as “Too Much Time on My Hands”, “Come Sail Away” and “Renegade”. Bassist Chuck Panozzo, who has limited stage time due to health issues after being diagnosed HIV positive in 1998, did join the band for a few numbers.
REO Speedwagon closed out the night’s festivities as front man Kevin Cronin took the stage dressed in all black and sporting shades and a fluffy white hair-do that many commented on. The band was also missing several original members, but that did not seem to bother most in attendance as Cronin’s vocals sounded stronger than ever. The hits began to flow with such favorites as “Take It On The Run”, “Riding The Storm Out” and ”Don’t Let Him Go” blasted from the speakers.
The band also proved that they still had the whole power ballad thing down pat. “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” and smash “Keep on Loving You” saw couples embrace and lighters raised high in the air. Although REO played a set that was a balance of ballads and rockers, they didn’t seem to pack the punch that Styx and Nugent did. I think it would have been a better balance by sandwiching them in the middle of the lineup rather than closing the night.
Overall, it was a great night of music from all three bands. Yes, it was a night of nostalgia as many in attendance exchanged “I can remember when” stories that revolved around the bands. There was an abundance of air guitar being played on this night as well as swooning and drooling over Tommy Shaw’s mane of flowing hair and his tight leather pants. It may be called dinosaur rock by many in the industry, but the fun that the evening provided for all in attendance was far from prehistoric.