Concert Review By Matt Wardlaw
Photo by Scott Sandberg
It was back in May of 1993 that singer-guitarist Rick Springfield made his first Cleveland appearance in a long time at the Great American Rib Cook-Off. The gig was part of a summer’s worth of dates that would be a test run for Springfield who hadn’t toured in a number of years after a motorcycle accident sidelined his plans to tour for his 1988 Rock of Life album. That test run gave fans a chance to see Springfield play some rare club gigs and the shows sold out. Springfield quickly found that the fans were still there. Nearly 25 years later, he’s still coming around to Cleveland on a regular basis and “Kristina,” the riff-heavy rocker that he opened those ‘93 gigs with, from 1982's Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet (Springfield was even selling a really cool vintage reprint of a Success baseball jersey at the merch stand), was the same tune that wrapped up the three song encore of his 90-minute set on a chilly and rainy Friday night at Jacobs Pavilion.
He’s 66 years old now — and only “two-thirds evil,” as he told the near-capacity crowd. “I’ll be fully evil when I’m 666 years old.” By the time he gets there, one can imagine that he’ll still be doing a lot of the same visual staples — thrashing any bouquet of roses that comes his way from the fans, with Pete Townshend-worthy windmill vigor across his guitar strings. “I’m the Morticia Adams of rock and roll,” he said. “You know, she’s the one that cut the heads off of the roses!” At this point, you’d think he’d be selling the roses at the merchandise table — there’s another revenue opportunity for you in addition to those autographed guitars, Rick.
He was out in the crowd two times, venturing down to travel along the front row to let fans sing a bit of “Don’t Talk To Strangers” — another standard bit, but on this particular night in Cleveland, the singers were, well, not too good. “You guys have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here,” he said. “Can’t anybody sing in fucking tune?” He was back out there for “Human Touch,” traveling throughout the crowded pavilion to get up close and personal with the fans. About the only Springfield staple that seems to have been sidelined in recent years is his habit of throwing his guitar high in the air and then catching it to end a song with extra flair. At 66 years of age, it’s probably wise to avoid those guitar-related concussions.
The setlist was fairly similar to last year’s show at the Rocksino — he’s still playing his fun cover of Katy Perry’s “Roar” and all of the hits, including a hefty stack jammed into a medley that starts with Hard To Hold’s “Bop Til Ya Drop and rolls through five more tunes, with a small tease of “Jessie’s Girl” dropped in the middle, just enough to get the crowd riled up and the medley finishes with a full-length run through “Love Is Alright Tonite” from his Working Class Dog album.
A new addition to this year’s show came in the form of two brand new songs that he’s been playing on tour, a preview of his next album, Rocket Science, which will be released in January, according to Springfield. “Down” was the highlight of the two, an energetic melodic rocker that he wrote with Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts and one that bodes well, suggesting that the new album will continue in the rock-heavy vein of his last several. It was enough of a dosage to make us look forward to that new record and hopefully we’ll get to hear more new songs from that album in the setlist the next time he comes through.
Loverboy and Donnie Iris were a perfect rock and roll double shot to get things started. Iris opened the evening with a solid 45 minute set and he was battling hard against the elements when the rain was at its heaviest, but he and the Cruisers countered the weather with a satisfying blend of album tracks and fan favorites, including “Do You Compute” and “That’s The Way Love Oughta Be” and, of course, “Ah! Leah,” with the usual slowed down introduction stripped off — they cut straight to the familiar album version that continues to be heard on local radio to this day.
Celebrating a pair of anniversaries this year — 35 years for their self-titled debut and 25 years for their Lovin’ Every Minute Of It Album, Loverboy hit the stage hard with the title track from their Notorious album opening up their nearly hour long set. They put the ballads (songs like “Almost Paradise” and “This Could Be the Night”) to the side and turned the guitars up instead for hit after hit, including a power set of “The Kid Is Hot Tonite,” “Lovin’ Every Minute Of It,” “Hot Girls In Love,” “Turn Me Loose,” (with that one high note still right in the zone) and the set closing “Working for the Weekend,” a great way to start off the weekend on a Friday night in Cleveland, with cowbell.
Vocalist Mike Reno still sounds nearly album-perfect vocally (although he left the trademark red leather pants at home on this evening) and in addition to the hits, the band also served up a nice deep cut coming in the form of “Queen of the Broken Hearts,” which, “If you had MTV, you heard this one a lot,” Reno told the crowd. The band retains nearly its entire original lineup with bassist Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve, a member of drummer Matt Frenette and guitarist Paul Dean’s pre-Loverboy band Streetheart, subbed in for the late Scott Smith and they still sound great. As package tours go (with Iris being a very welcome Cleveland-specific addition), this one was all killer and no filler.