Music fans were still making their way to their seats on a hot Summer night at the Starplex Pavilion in Dallas when the announcer made a strong introduction of a man responsible for many of the Eagles biggest hits. The audience listened to all the accolades, then burst into a huge ovation for Don Felder. The now-solo artist didn’t disappoint anyone as he came out looking fit and trim, and immediately launched into “Already Gone.” Felder was still in exceptional voice as he stood at the front of the stage and interacted freely with the crowd.
The exceptionally-talented guitar player, who was responsible for much of the instrumentals during his time with the Hall of Fame supergroup, was note for note on “One Of These Nights.” The audience gave him one of many ovations for the classic hit song.
The crowd didn’t know, but immensely enjoyed, “Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride) from the film of the same name. His pulsating solo and the band jam made this a crowd favorite. Harmony was the focal point for “Seven Bridges Road” as his touring band showed their vocal talent and their musical cohesion.
Dedicating the next song to “All the ladies in the crowd who have never had a song dedicated to them,” Felder used his voice as another instrument as he hit the high notes with ease during “Witchy Woman.” The three-man guitar front backed by a throbbing drum beat induced a throng of cheers.
Felder wailed a solo and the entire band shined on “The Long Run.” A sharply played solo showed his pedigree as a master on the axe. The crowd erupted when Tommy Shaw came out to join his friend on “Take It Easy.” A Felder-Shaw face-off proceeded a four-man guitar front that enthralled the audience. Shaw then switched to the banjo for some finger-picking music that also excited everyone.
Saying, “Let’s keep this party rocking,” Don kicked off the crowd singalong “Heartache Tonight.” He led the fans in clapping to the beat and was all over the stage having fun.
The audience went wild at the distinctive beginning notes of “Life In The Fast Lane.” The crowd was dancing and moving, and I noticed that mullets were making a comeback as a hairstyle, at least in the few rows in front of me. The ensuing jam supplied all the energy anyone needed.
As Felder strapped on the famous doubleneck guitar, most of the fans pulled out their phones to either record it or shine a light to the infamous “Hotel California.” Dave Amato of REO Speedwagon came out for the Joe Walsh part of the dual guitar riff that has been voted as the best guitar solo ever by many prominent magazines.
The standing ovation lasted several minutes and finished Felder’s part of the show as he thanked the fans for showing up on such a hot day. It was a joy to see him have so much fun doing what he loves to do.
With no introduction, REO Speedwagon walked onstage with vocalist Kevin Cronin singing the hit “Don’t Let Him Go” as he skipped around with his usual energy. The crowd was hopping and the sun was shining directly on the band, adding to the heat in the arena for the tremendous opening song.
Drummer Brian Hitt laid down a driving beat to encompass “Keep Pushin’” while Dave Amato played a wicked slide guitar as the crowd danced away their cares. The women turned dancing into swooning as the band played their love ballad “Can’t Fight This Feeling” with Cronin on piano and his voice sounding stronger than it has in the past few years.
Cronin and Amato moved to the front for “Tough Guys” while the rest of the group showed their musical chops and cohesion playing together. Showing they are still relevant in the new music scene, REO played “Whipping Boy,” a song they have yet to record for an upcoming album. The song about human nature could have been one of their hits in the 80s as it perfectly fit their style. The dual guitars during the song charmed the crowd, who gave them a resounding positive response.
Guitar solos highlighted the crowd favorite “That Ain’t Love.” The highly underrated Amato shredded as he did all night. Originally written about the divide in out country between generations over the Viet Nam war, “Golden Country” fit just as well in today’s political climate. The protest song turned into a singalong and a jam with everyone, including keyboardist Neal Daughty, getting a chance to shine with a solo.
Another song about bridging the treacherous divide was “Building The Bridge,” a song they haven’t played in concert since 1994. Only hard-core fans, of which there were many in the sold out venue, knew the words, but it went over well with the pro-REO crowd who have purchased over 40 million of their albums.
The audience sprang to their feet, dancing and singing to the popular “Take It On The Run.” All three guitarists lined up at the front of the stage while Cronin pointed the mic to the crowd and yelled, “You sing it.” Amato played a doubleneck for “Time For Me To Fly” while the woman a few seats down from gave away her previous career and suggestively moved like the featured dancer at the Boom Boom Room.
Bassist Bruce Hall soloed on the intro to “Back On The Road Again,” then sang lead while the audience provided the vocals for the refrain. Amato brilliantly fingered the fret while Cronin used his years as a showman to work the crowd before an ending jam session.
The sounds of thunderstorms signaled the the familiar beginning of “Ridin’ The Storm Out,” sending the fans into a tizzy. A three-guitar front led the spirited jam that ended the set. Fans exploded for one of the all-time great set-closing songs.
The cheering increased as the band left the stage and they quickly returned to an even higher decibel level. Kevin sat at the piano and said this song woke him out of a deep sleep at 4:00am in the summer of 1980 and he composed “Keep On Loving You.” He said their lives have never been the same as it catapulted them into the supergroup category.
The crowd obviously agreed as they sang, danced and recorded it for posterity. The audience almost drowned out the band during “Roll With The Changes,” another all-time closing song. The extended jam gave all the musicians another chance to show off their abilities and they had fun doing it. An animated standing ovation ushered REO off the stage as the crowd got ready for the headliners.
The sold-out crowd stood and cheered in unison as the headliners of the United We Rock Tour came onstage with no introduction. The fans had already heard a night of fantastic music, but they wanted more. And STYX gave them more. Much more.
Keyboardist Lawrence Gowan bounced around like a Chihuahua on cocaine, as he did all night as Tommy Shaw opened with “Gone, Gone, Gone.”Shaw and co-founder James “JY” Young explored the whole stage during “Blue Collar Man” while Gowan twirled the keyboard set on a swivel. After the song, he then announced to the crowd, “Dallas, Texas, we’re having a rock show!”
Gowan played behind his back, sometimes hitting the keys with his butt, for the rock opera-like “The Grand Illusion.” Shaw and JY both had solos that captivated the music-loving crowd. Women went delirious at the opening notes of “Lady” as the loyal fans sang every word along with the band.
Simultaneously plugging their new record, Mission, and celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Grand Illusion, which sold 10 million of their 54 million albums, they played “Light Up” from 1975. The crowd lit up the arena with their cell phones, the modern day equivalent of BIC lighters back in the day. It looked like Christmas Eve services to go along with the mesmerizing harmony with only Todd Sucherman backing on drums.
From their first album in 14 years, Shaw sang the well-received “Radio Silence.” Beach balls came out for the profound lyrics of “Miss America,” a jab at the Miss America Meat Parade. JY, always animated on stage, gave an energetic performance backed by a thumping drum beat.
Co-founder Chuck Panozzo, who hasn’t toured since falling ill a few years ago, was in town and came out to join the rest of the band for “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man).” All four guitarists formed a front line for the song and the adoring crowd loved that Panozzo joined his original group.
Giving a hint about time sent the audience into a frenzy as every person in the venue, including ushers, security and vendors, double clapped during “Too Much Time On My Hands.” It’s seemingly impossible not to clap along with the staple of classic rock radio.
As they do in every concert, the band paid tribute to other artists who have influenced them. First was “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen with a singalong by the fans. In a surprise move, Gowan stopped playing and said, “I’d better stop before the headbanging.” He then soloed on “Golden Slumbers” by the Beatles that thrilled everyone in the audience.
The amped-up fans were almost louder than the musicians on the set closing “Come Sail Away.” Chuck P. came back out wearing a sparkly jacket and Gowan led the singing crowd from on top pf the keyboards. He danced in between all four guitarists as they jammed like it was the last song they would ever get to play. The bone-chilling closing song kept building to to a climatic crescendo and received a raucous standing ovation.
The band came back out quickly as confetti and streamers exploded from the rafters for “Rockin’ The Paradise.”The energy inside the venue was incredible, led by Gowan, the consummate showman.
The fans then went bombastic at the singing intro for “Renegade.” They exploded when the music started the familiar refrain. Panozzo came back out for one of the best closing songs ever. It featured a JY solo before finishing with an extended jam session and thunderous cheering.
The United We Rock Tour is selling out shows at every arena the play. It’s several hours of classic music by artists who established themselves and helped define the classic rock genre. Catch them on tour through November 15th.
Joe Guzman of Infrared Magazine was on hand to record the event.