Live At Moondance Jam

REO Speedwagon

There is a lot to be said for American classic rock bands that survive over four decades. REO Speedwagon is one such band, forming on the college campus of the University of Illinois back in the late 60s. Seeing more than a few personnel changes, REO finally hit it MTV-big with their 1980 Hi Infidelity album songs like “Keep On Loving You” and “Take It on the Run.” Now, over 33 years later, REO’s Live At Moondance Jam, a CD/DVD live set recorded in 2011 at the Moondance Jam festival in Walker, Minnesota, captures a band that has certainly ridden “the storm out” over these many years.

The set opens with the power-driven punch of “Don't Let Him Go” with lead singer and guitarist Kevin Cronin sounding pitch perfect and that distinctive keyboards run from the band’s only original member, Neal Doughty, setting up what turns out to be a very solid hour and half. Cronin makes for a sprightly front man, and I have to say he is fun to watch, even though he doesn’t necessarily have the moves of a Jagger. He does have the job down cold, as does the rest of the band, though most of the tunes here belong to the amazingly underrated Doughty.

“Take It On The Run” features Dave Amato on lead guitar as the song takes on an almost country-rock flavor on this outing (you can see the crowd coming alive for this one on the DVD). “Golden Country” is the oldest REO tune to get an airing here, and despite a little overt jingoism from Cronin, this is truly one of the highlights of the night with its funky verses featuring bassist Bruce Hall and Doughtery’s perfectly placed plinking.

REO is a band that has mastered a full-on rockin’ when you least expect it, as when they hit one out of the park with Cronin’s 12-string led “Can't Fight This Feeling.” A synth and splashy cymbals from drummer Bryan Hitt open “Time for Me to Fly,” which also features Amato on the double-neck and effortless bass lines from Hall. “Back On The Road Again” has the bassist on vocals while Amato wails his ass off. And, of course, Cronin and Doughty take the lead on the finale “Roll With The Changes.” The CD includes two additional numbers — “Ridin' The Storm Out” and a Doughty-dominated honky tonk “157 Riverside Avenue” from the band’s 1971 self-titled debut album. REO Speedwagon might be older, but they are certainly a band to be reckoned with on Live at Moondance Jam.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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