Live review: REO Speedwagon play the hits at Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix
Courtesy of Sony Music

Like many of the fans that packed the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix for the May 5 REO Speedwagon show, frontman Kevin Cronin is now rocking white hair. But time has been good to Cronin; he is still lean and full of energy, and most importantly, his voice is still strong and instantly recognizable as the powerhouse behind countless hits including “Don’t Let Him Go” and “Keep Pushin’,” the songs that opened the show.

With only a couple of exceptions, everything that REO Speedwagon played was among their greatest hits and favorites, and the crowd went bananas when the opening chords of the ballad “Can’t Fight This Feeling” reverberated through the theater. But a surprise came after a take on “Tough Guys” from 1980’s massively-successful Hi Infidelity album was played when Cronin introduced a brand new song called “Whipping Boy,” indicating that the song would be on a new album if the band “ever gets around to making one.” About not being bullied, whether by an individual or a government, clearly the song was written in response to so much of today’s daily news.

The middle section of the show featured “That Ain’t Love” and, in a real treat for longtime fans, “Golden Country,” a song penned by the band’s late guitarist, Gary Richrath, and one that appeared on the group’s sophomore effort, R.E.O./T.W.O.  Cronin picked up an acoustic guitar and played the subdued “In My Dreams” while the rest of the band took a brief breather; they rejoined him as the song segued into “Building the Bridge.”

Ready for a big finish, REO Speedwagon closed the show with “Take it on the Run,” “Time for Me to Fly,” “Back on the Road Again” and the rowdy signature tune “Ridin’ the Storm Out.” An encore featured two more big hits in “Keep on Loving You” and “Roll with the Changes,” something the long-running band and their devoted fans have done for many decades now.

REO Speedwagon remain on the road and you can catch them at the Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles, Calif. on June 25 (with Styx and Don Felder) and at the Pepsi Center in Denver on June 29; again with Styx and Felder.

Shows coming to the Celebrity Theatre include:

May 12 – Blue October
May 22 – Brian Wilson
May 23 – Ann Wilson
June 27 – Ted Nugent
July 6 – Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers

For more news and to follow REO Speedwagon, visit their Facebook page here.