REO Speedwagon & Styx w/ Loverboy• July 9, 2022• USANA Amphitheatre
Reviewed and Photographed by Kevin Rolfe
Live & UnZoomed Tour
The “Live & UnZoomed Tour” made its way to Utah on Saturday, July 9. REO Speedwagon and Styx have been playing co-headlining tours for years. This time they would be joined by special guest, Loverboy. I’d imagine this night at USANA Amphitheatre will be a memorable one. First off, it was HOT! We’re talking triple digits folks. On top of the extreme heat, there was a massive fire just on the other side of the western mountain range. The smokey air added a new element to the outdoor concert experience. Despite the unique conditions, fans showed up in droves to see some of their favorite bands. Styx and REO Speedwagon are regular visitors to Utah, and every time they come their shows do well. This night was no exception.
The show began with Canadian rock band, Loverboy. Due to a mix up, I didn’t get my photo pass in time to get photos of the band, but all was taken care of and I was able to see their set. The guys walked on stage with the sun directly on their faces. I hope they wore sunscreen or these guys for sure got sunburned. I know I’m harping on the heat, but it was really hot and I felt for the guys because they were playing directly into the sun. Loverboy did not seem affected by the conditions at all. They flew through their set playing crowd favorites like “Loving Every Minute of It” and “Turn Me Loose”.
Of course, the highlight for the arriving crowd was the classic hit, “Everybody’s Working For The Weekend”. I thought vocalist, Mike Reno sounded great. At this point of the show, I was on the lawn. I wanted to get a point of view of the show from there. It was fun to see people dancing and singing. The shade was starting to cover the lawn and I think people were feeling good with the sun no longer right on them. Loverboy put on an awesome opening set. When I spoke to Styx keyboard player and vocalist, Lawrence Gowan, we discussed how great Loverboy was at setting the tone for the night. He was not wrong.
I must admit, it felt a little weird having Styx play the middle set. From what I understand the two headliners flip flop their sets each night. And I’ve actually seen Styx and REO Speedwagon before with Styx playing the middle slot. But if I’m being honest, I think the show flows best when Styx closes out the night. That’s not a put down on anyone because the entire night was great fun. I just feel like the deep catalog Styx has provides for an excellent closing act top to bottom.
Nevertheless, Styx made their way out onto the sunny stage. It gets dark pretty late here in Utah so even with their 8 PM start time it was still pretty light. All of the band members were wearing sunglasses except for James “JY” Young. This doesn’t surprise me. I always suspected he had superhuman strength. I bet he was blinding the sun with his stare. It seemed like all of the band seemed unaffected by the heat and the now raining ash. Despite taking the stage in jackets and long sleeves, I don’t think I ever saw any of these guys sweat! True professionals these guys.
The show began with “The Fight of Our Lives” from their latest album Crash of the Crown. I thought this was the perfect opener. They are able to play something newer, introduce what might be an unfamiliar song to their fans, and it’s a good song, so it starts things off well. It didn’t take long to get into the hits. They followed “The Fight of Our Lives” with “Blue Collar Man”, “The Grand Illusion”, and “Lady”. The crowd was all in for these songs. At this point, the entire audience was in the shade and I could see the shade working its way to the stage. Temperatures were dropping and everyone seemed to be very comfortable. These conditions showed up just in time for fans and bands to really feel at their best.
I have something selfish to say. I’ve been fortunate enough to review Styx a number of times. When I get a photo pass I’m allowed to shoot the first three songs. “Blue Collar Man” and “The Grand Illusion” are a couple of my favorite Styx songs. But most of the time they’re played within the first three songs. Because of this, I am unable to rock out with the rest of the crowd because I’m taking photos. Can you imagine hearing the intro to “Blue Collar Man” and having to stand there taking photos and not even bobbing your head because you want the photos to be sharp? Poor me, right?
So, I selfishly ask Styx to please play these songs maybe fourth or fifth the next time they come to Utah? The funny thing is, as a reviewer, these songs could not be more perfectly placed. The show gets off to a frenzied start because of where they are on the setlist. So I applaud Styx for their well thought out setlist. But I want to rock with the fans!
The set continued with no slowing down in sight. Songs like, “Light Up”, and “Sound the Alarm” kept the momentum going. Lawrence Gowan introduced the band giving each member high praise and some funny twists. Stating that Tommy Shaw does everything, “He’ll do your lawn!”. Ricky Phillips got the funniest intro. Gowan told us that Ricky got his professional career started right here in Utah. Gowan followed with “Mystery solved”, implying that Phillips had potentially fathered a litter of children in Utah. The crowd cheered and laughed and I could even see JY and other band members cracking up at the joke. Phillips was either embarrassed or sunburned because his face was a rosier hew than before. It was a really fun and light moment in the show.
The band followed the band intros with “Rockin’ the Paradise” and “Fooling Yourself”. They introduced original member Chuck Panozzo to the stage. He received a warm reception. I always love seeing his appearances with the band. Tommy Shaw shared that Styx has been a band for 50 years. He shared how fraternal twin brothers Chuck and John (original drummer who has since passed away) Panozzo started playing music and eventually met James Young and as Tommy put it, “The rest is history”. I think “The rest is history” is the new “Yadda Yadda Yadda” for not wanting to bring up other parts or people in the band’s origin story. But that’s ok. The rest is history. If those fellas hadn’t gotten together to play music on the south side of Chicago, we wouldn’t be seeing them at USANA Amphitheater in 2022.
There really wasn’t a lull in this entire set. Tommy Shaw shared that “Too Much Time On My Hands” was played in the first hour of MTV being on the air. The crowd was so into this song. Clapping at the appropriate times and taking the lead vocals for one of the choruses.
Lawrence Gowan wowed the audience with his piano instrumental, “Khedive” from The Mission. That was followed by my favorite part of the show. I discussed this with Mr. Gowan as well in our interview. I really enjoy the transition of “Lost at Sea” into “Come Sail Away”. It should be so obvious. We should see this happening from a mile away. But when the piano from “Come Sail Away” begins, the crowd is stunned with excitement. They did not expect it. Of course, everyone went nuts for “Come Sail Away”.
The band returned for an encore to play “Mr. Roboto”. This still surprises me. I love that they’ve been playing this song on the last few tours, but it will always blow me away that they want to. They rock it up a bit which I think only enhances the song. I could tell the crowd loved it and either sang along or did the robot dance move to their friends.
A Styx set can’t end without “Renagade”. The band has played this song a million times, but it always sounds fresh and is a huge hit with the crowd. I am constantly blown away by how good Tommy Shaw still sounds. The guy is getting close to 70 years old, not that you can tell, and he still sings these songs flawlessly. He must take great care of those pipes. Simply aging can take its toll on your voice. So the fact that he can still sing these songs so well is miraculous.
It’s impossible to not be impressed by Styx. They come here so often and they put on a great show every time. I was thinking during the concert that this is an incredible lineup. I know there is always a pull for the band to reunite with “He who shall not be named”, at some point. But I started to think of this situation in a different way. Have you ever had a friend who was married to a guy you thought was great? They were your favorite couple. But then that couple tells you they’re getting a divorce. You are bummed out and insist you’ll never like your friend’s new partner. But then you meet their new boyfriend and you really like him. You’re torn because you want to be loyal to the ex-husband, but you’re really enjoying your nights out with this new couple.
So it is with Styx. However, this is not a new couple. They’ve been together for over 20 years now. And we’ve enjoyed our nights out with them time and time again. We can like the ex-husband. I know I do. But we should enjoy what we have in this lineup because it’s pretty great.
REO Speedwagon came out with a huge wave of momentum behind them. Loverboy set the tone. Styx took it to a new high level. It was up to REO Speedwagon to send us home on the right note. They really went for it. They opened with “Music Man”. Frontman Kevin Cronin was bursting with energy as he made his way around the large stage. He would jam with his bandmates or walk to the front of the stage and play to the audience.
The audience got really loud when “Take It On the Run” started. Their voices could be heard loudly. People right up against the stage were waving their arms and reaching up to get the attention of the band. REO had definitely taken the momentum they were given and were running with it.
Cronin told the audience that he did most of his songwriting on the guitar. But every once in a while he would sit down at the piano and write. He said he couldn’t do it without the help of original keyboardist, Neal Doughty. Just then Doughty hit the familiar notes to the intro to “Can’t Fight this Feeling”. While this was the slowest song that had been played up to this point, it sure didn’t feel like it. The tempo might have slowed, but the energy in the Amphitheatre stayed at the same high level. Phone lights were out and swaying. Couples were arm in arm or cuddled up near each other.
Cronin gave us opportunities to sing along and I’m not going to lie, I belted out “I”m getting closer than I ever thought I might!” with the throng of people. It was fun and as much as people want to joke about the song, it’s always a crowd favorite. And even cynical me couldn’t help but get into it.
Kevin Cronin asked us to close our eyes. He told us to pretend it was 1981. Cronin wanted us to imagine we were at a record store buying an album. He asked us to picture taking the album from its jacket, placing it on the turntable, and moving the arm and needle to the vinyl. He said if you imagine all that, you’d be hearing this song. The band played “Don’t Let Him Go’ from the album Hi Fidelity.
Cronin told us that this was a time when the band would leave the stage but tonight he was staying with us! I’m not sure if they were running out of time. USANA has a curfew so I wonder if REO Speedwagon just wanted to be sure to get all of their songs in. Or if they just wanted to stay on stage and keep playing rather than go through the whole encore ceremony. Either way, as we speak of the momentum of this show, staying on stage pushed our momentum all the way to the end of the show. Songs like “Time For Me To Fly” and “Keep On Loving You” delighted the audience.
“Roll With the Changes” ended the night. A band that has been coming to Utah since the 70s still brought down the house with this song. I thought Cronin sounded the best he has in a while. Not that he sounded bad before. I just thought his vocals were really good at this concert.
The “Live & UnZoomed Tour” was a smashing success here in Utah. I’m sure it will do well on every tour stop. When I got home, my clothes smelled like campfire. These unique conditions could not stop me or the fans from having a good time. I think Styx and REO Speedwagon are a great combination for a tour. Whether it be together or with different touring partners, I’m sure these bands will do just fine on their next visit to Utah.