Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

June 16, 2013

Arena rock returns to the Artpark stage with REO Speedwagon

Niagara Gazette — This week’s Tuesday’s in the Park features one of the greatest arena rock bands of all time, REO Speedwagon. The band gets its name from a brand of flatbed truck that was a precursor to the modern pickup. The “REO” stands for Ransom E. Olds, the founder of Oldsmobile.

Formed in Champaign, Ill., in 1968, the band dominated AOR (album-oriented rock) radio stations in the 1970s with songs like “Roll With the Changes,” “Keep Pushin” and “Ridin’ the Storm Out.”

In November of 1980 REO released “Hi Infidelity,” the number one selling album of 1981, which featured the massive hit, “Keep on Loving You,” which hit No. 1 on March 21, 1981, the same day I attended my first REO concert in Rochester, a memory I shared with REO bassist Bruce Hall during a recent interview.

“I am glad you were there. That was a pretty amazing time in our life,” Hall said.

As exciting as it was for me as a fan to witness REO finally achieve massive commercial success, I could only imagine what it was like for Hall.

“It must be the same feeling an astronaut has when they get into outer space. Up to that point, we had been doing well, but 'Hi Infidelity,' took off like a rocket and everything changed.”

Even before “Hi Infidelity,” REO had established themselves as one of the greatest live bands on the arena rock circuit.

“REO is from the Midwest and the old-school way of doing things was to play in front of as many people as possible and build a fan base. Playing live is what REO does better than anything.”

One of the main reasons REO is so good live is because of their front man Kevin Cronin. With his beaming smile and boyhood enthusiasm, Cronin knows how to work a crowd. Cronin is the voice behind most of REO’s signature hits, with one notable exception, “Back on the Road Again,” from REO’s “Nine Lives” album, sung by Bruce Hall.

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