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Styx + REO Speedwagon + Don Felder @ Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Rapids, Michigan (March 19, 2018)  – Don Felder, Styx and REO Speedwagon at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI.

Don Felder © John Swider
Don Felder © John Swider
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When REO Speedwagon checked into the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI tonight, no one knew what to expect. With lead singer Kevin Cronin just recently returning from a two-month hiatus for a medical procedure, everyone wondered if he would be able to perform as he was accustomed, or if it would be a struggle. As the lights dimmed and the thumping bass from Bruce Hall’s guitar and the pounding drum beats from Bryan Hitt permeated the arena, we had our answer.

Cronin, looking as physically fit as ever, came bouncing out to the microphone for “Don’t Let Him Go”, a perennial crowd favorite. After the obligatory greeting and storytelling that Cronin is known for, the band laid down a string of REO classics. “In Your Letter”, “Keep Pushin’”, and classic rock radio stalwart “Can’t Fight the Feeling”, which got the crowd up and singing along.

As the end of the 14-song, 90-minute set drew to a close with “Roll With the Changes”, Cronin and the boys had one more surprise in left in store, a tribute to friend and fellow musician, the late, great Tom Petty. As the band joined center stage for “Listen to Her Heart”, a Petty classic, the appreciative fans began to applaud in unison; in a way, showing a tribute to the fallen music Icon.

The performance tonight was vintage REO. A little storytelling from Cronin, scorching guitar licks from Amato and Halls, with a little thumping drum thrown in from Hitt. Are they as good as they were back in their prime? Not really, but in reality, how many bands have been together 48 years!?

REO Speedwagon @ John Swider
REO Speedwagon @ John Swider
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When the band left the stage, Cronin moved up the steps to a white piano perched on a platform overlooking the arena. There he told stories about the “struggles with relationships” and how we should “never let go of love in our lives”.  As he began to play “Keep on Loving You” on the piano, the band joined him back on stage, each taking their part in this underappreciated classic. To simply say this was one of the best songs of the night would be an understatement.When Styx opened the show at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI tonight with “Gone Gone Gone” off their 2017 release, Mission, most of the crowd just stood and stared. It wasn’t because they didn’t like what they were hearing, it was that very few had ever heard it before! That alone is a testament to the classic rock band that is still headlining arena shows well into their 46th year, opening a set with a new song!

The fans didn’t have to wait long for a for the familiar heavy guitar-laden sound they came for as Shaw and Young broke into “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” after a greeting of “hello, western Michigan” from Shaw. From that point on, it was hit after hit with Styx classics such as “The Grand Illusion”, “Lady” and “Light Up”.

After a surprisingly entertaining version of “Radio Silence” from Mission concluded, it was Young’s turn front and center. With the recognizable searing guitar licks of “Miss America” filling the arena, the boys were off again covering “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” and “Too Much Time on My Hands” which featured Gowan on vocals.

This current edition of Styx is a well-oiled, tightly-knit group of highly talented musicians. Tommy Shaw (guitar/vocals), is the defined leader, along with James “JY” Young (guitar/vocals), the last of the original touring members. The remaining members of the classic rock powerhouse include Ricky Phillips (bass/guitar/vocals), Lawrence “Larry” Gowan (keyboards/vocals), and Todd Sucherman (drums).

When the 14-song, 90-minute set came to a close after crowd favorites “Come Sail Away”, “Rockin’ the Paradise”, and the traditional ending “Renegade”, the band received a well-deserved, heartfelt, roaring ovation from the appreciative standing crowd.

It’s not often you witness a performance that is musically perfect with vocals that rival the originals, but tonight was that night. Styx has not lost a step along the way and their stage presence will put bands half their age to shame.

Styx © John Swider
Styx © John Swider
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