Canadian quintet Loverboy bombarded the Billboard charts in the ‘80s with smash singles from popular albums like Loverboy (1980), Get Lucky (1981), and Keep It Up (1983). But the band members bemoaned the coming of grunge in the ‘90s, which saw tastes shift from the fun-loving party rock anthems of old to angrier, edgier Seattle sounds.
“Nirvana killed our career,” surmised singer Mike Reno on a VH-1 Behind the Music special.
Still, perhaps Reno—who crooned Footloose ballad “Almost Paradise” (with Heart’s Ann Wilson 34 years ago)—spoke too soon: He and his fellow Loverboys reunited after a three-year hiatus (1989-1992) and are still plugged in and playing 38 years later, as attested by the 2014 album Unfinished Business. The Vancouver-based outfit enjoyed a successful tour with Rick Springfield (“Jesse’s Girl”) and Donnie Iris (“Ah, Leah!”) a couple years back, and continues to make the rounds today on assorted ‘80s package tours and “Rock Boat” cruises.
Reno and pals brought Hard Rock patrons to their feet Friday (Feb. 2) night in Northfield, Ohio with a brawny set that invigorated onlookers at the sold-out venue. It was their first concert of 2018 (they took January off), but there wasn’t a fleck of rust on display.
“I think it’s gonna be a good year!” greeted Reno.
The group commenced with the kinetic “Notorious,” exuberant “Lucky Ones,” and bristling “Queen of the Broken Hearts,” and never really let up. The crowd—particularly the females—couldn’t get enough of the nostalgic adrenaline shot, singing familiar refrains back to Reno (I don’t want to hear it!) and dancing at their seats. The fellows even managed to weave in a bit of Doors (“Riders on the Storm”) during a mid-song breakdown early on.
The musicians aren't as slim and baby-faced as they were in their MTV heyday, but so what? Sporting a Loverboy logo headband, sunglasses, and black faux leather, Reno was still capable of reaching his signature stratospheric high notes on “Take Me to The Top,” “It’s Your Life,” and “The Kid is Hot Tonight.” Unlike most pop stars, he was very deliberate in his execution, carefully drawing big breaths and bracing himself for trickier passages (not unlike an opera singer). Reno preferred gripping the microphone with his right hand—always the right—and he pulls it away from his mouth when belting stronger, louder notes.
But Reno went the heavy metal route, too, upending his mic stand and pumping his fists. Moody, keyboard-slathered “When It’s Over” benefited from his potent pipes. “Hot Girls in Love” had temperatures rising.
Along with Reno, the hard-hitting headliner features all its mainstay members, save Scott Smith (who passed away seventeen years ago). Paul Dean dazzled on lead guitar (a red Fender Strat with black pickguard), contributing slide and wah-wah in all the right spots, and Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve thrummed a wood-grain Zon bass (sans headstock). Matt Frenette occupied the drum riser above Reno, doling out rough boy beats on his Yamaha / Zildjain-adorned kit as fans grooved in the aisles. Doug Johnson was a whiz on keyboards, anointing the tracks with the lush synth chords and iconic riffs heard on Loverboy’s vinyl records (and cassettes). Johnson wailed on harmonica and saxophone, too.
The guys climaxed with a menacing “Turn Me Loose,” then brought down the house with timeless blue-collar anthem “Working for the Weekend.”
Longtime Ohio fans were “Lovin’ Every Minute of It,” to quote the band’s energetic encore from 1985.
It wasn’t an overly long love-in with Reno and company: Even with solos and outro jams, the set clocked in at only ninety minutes (thirteen selections) or so. The frisky five-piece skipped fare from their mid-career efforts like Six (1997), Just Getting Started (2007), and more recent Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival (2012)—but we’re guessing the Hard Rock guests got exactly what they came to hear.
Visit the Loverboy website for more news and tour dates.