It was a record breaking hot day in Phoenix at 108 degrees on Friday May 5th, and we were all prepared for an equally hot classic 70s rock and roll show with REO Speedwagon. The problem was that we were not expecting it to be also a physically hot time in the Celebrity Theatre. The one thing in Phoenix we don’t want to hear is that the AC is broken when the temperature is over 100. Late in the afternoon, the AC stopped working and the management at the Celebrity Theatre were attempting to get it fixed for the show, however just prior to REO Speedwagon taking the stage, it still was not working. Much to the credit of both Danny Zelisko (the promoter) and the management of The Celebrity Theatre, they realized the situation and came up with a good solution. They offered either a full refund for anyone who wanted to leave, or if you wanted to stay, they lowered the drinks to half prices. Looking around, I did not see too many people leaving, but a lot of people were taking advantage of the drink special.
The night started off with Paul Gurvitz & the New Army. Originally from England, Paul now lives in Arizona. Paul has been writing songs since 1960 at an age of 16 and is a multi platinum songwriter. His new band, The New Army is made up of Paul Guvitz on guitar and vocals, Mark Klink on keyboards, Ken Ronk providing vocals, Eduardo Ardon on drums and Simon PC Frost on guitar.
As with a lot of lead-up bands, you are not sure what to expect, but I was amazed by how good Paul and the band was. I read a little about them prior to the show and saw that they call their sound “country rock/rock”, but to my ears it was just good old rock and roll like I heard back in the 70s. Ken’s voice was both powerful and blended perfectly with Paul’s guitar riffs. Considering the heat in the building, I was pleasantly surprised that the band played a great 40 minute set. Since Paul and gang are now residents of Arizona, I definitely plan on seeing more of their shows. If you get the chance to see them, you will not be disappointed. You will have a good time and hear some really good rock music.
So after the stage was cleared, and we decided to stay, REO Speedwagon took the stage. I originally saw REO Speedwagon in the late 70s at the Phoenix Civic Plaza. I remember that show because I snuck my first semi-pro camera into that show and got some great photos. A few years later I put together a couple of those photos in a frame and got it signed by the band. I still have the framed photos, but really need to reprint the images since they have faded over the years. Fast forward 35 years and I finally got to see REO Speedwagon again. This time they performed at the very intimate Celebrity Theatre. Only the lead singer/guitarist Kevin Cronin and bass player Bruce Hall are still with the band from that 70s show. They are now joined by Neal Doughty on keyboards, Dave Amato on lead guitar, and Bryan Hitt on drums.
They started the show with “Don’t Let Him Go” from their multi-platinum album, Hi Infidelity. Much to the delight of the audience, they continued with all of their greatest hits, including “Can’t Fight This Feeling”, “Take It On The Run”, “Time For Me To Fly” and “Back On The Road”. Numerous times, the crowd gave the band a standing ovation. The crowd also sang along with a lot of the songs. They completed the main set with one of my personal favorites, “Ridin’ The Storm Out”. After a very short break, they came back on stage for their encore. They started with their first number 1 hit, “Keep On Lovin’ You” and then went into a fan favorite, “Roll With The Changes”. At this point according their setlist, they were done, but instead Kevin introduced Dave Amato and told us that he had played with another band in the 70s and launched in Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” and the crowd went crazy. They completed the show with a Tom Petty classic, “Listen To Her Heart”.
In a lot of shows we write that the band was really hot, but tonight I can say that they REALLY were hot. As I looked around the crowd, I saw a lot of people attempting to fan themselves to try and cool off. It might have been hot in the theater, but no one seemed to care because they were getting “one hell of a show”. The band were real troopers and never complained about the heat and even added 2 additional song to their posted setlist. It might have been over 40 years since REO Speedwagon hit the music scene, but they are just as great today as ever. If you want to see a great 70s Classic Rock show, then this is one of the shows you must see.
Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents
Venue: Celebrity Theatre
Date: Friday May 5, 2017
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017
Paul Gurvitz & the New Army
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017
REO Speedwagon Setlist: (Album)
Don’t Let Him Go (Hi Infidelity)
Keep Pushin’ (R.E.O.)
Can’t Flight This Feeling (Wheels Are Turnin’)
Tough Guys (Hi Infidelity)
Whippin’ Boy (Not Yet Released)
That Ain’t Love (Life as We Know It)
Golden Country (R.E.O.)
In My Dreams (Life as We Know It)
Building The Bridge (Building The Bridge)
Take It On The Run (Hi Infidelity)
Time For Me To Fly (You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish)
Back On The Road (Hi Infidelity)
Ridin’ The Storm Out (Ridin’ The Storm Out)
Keep On Lovin’ You (Hi Infidelity)
Roll With The Changes (You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish)
Stranglehold (Ted Nugent cover)
Listen To Her Heart (Tom Petty cover)