Gig preview: REO Speedwagon at First Direct Arena, Leeds

REO Speedwagon
REO Speedwagon
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SADLY the time has come for the final electric tour by legendary rockers Status Quo, and the December tour promises to be a massive party.

Fans of all ages look forward to the December tour and mark it in their diaries every year.

One man who is looking forward to it more than most is Kevin Cronin, lead singer (and also rhythm guitarist and song-writer) of American favourites REO Speedwagon, who will be accompanying Quo on the tour.

“We got a call from their management,” Cronin says, “and we’ve been waiting for the right situation to come back to the UK.

“When we were there last, we played to a few smaller venues and this is an opportunity to play in front of a lot of people.”

REO was formed in 1967 by keyboard player Neal Doughty while still at college, and Cronin joined in the early 70s; and the pair still steer (or rather drive, as an REO Speedwagon was a make of fire engine) the band.

REO Speedwagon

REO Speedwagon

Their hits include the likes of Take It On The Run, Keep On Loving You and Can’t Fight This Feeling.

The two latter hits topped the charts in America in 1981 and 1985 respectively.

Can’t Fight This Feeling may be more familiar these days as it is being used in a cat food commercial.

Cronin laughs. “Yeah, I heard about that. I’m pretty fortunate that our publishing company always run things by me for approval.”

I think of Quo from the Pictures of Matchstick Men days. The sound was so psychedelic and the band I was in while at high school covered it.

Kevin Cronin

He adds: “I won’t let them use my songs on a cigarette commercial however, I was offered one and turned it down. The advertising agency though it was a bargaining tool and doubled the offer, but I still turned it down.

“If I thought that a kid had started smoking after hearing my music on a commercial I would hate it. A cute cat food commercial is OK, though.”

Cronin, born 65 years ago in Evanston, Illinois, is shocked when I tell him that the last time the band toured the UK was in 2007.

“I didn’t realise it was that long. Time is a strange thing in my life and the past, present and future get a little foggy.

REO Speedwagon

REO Speedwagon

“I’m really glad to be coming back though, my ancestors are from Ireland and I feel a kinship.

“And of course, our early influences were the British Invasion groups of the mid-60s.

“England is a magical place and we are all really looking forward to coming over.”

As for the show itself, the band ise keen to showcase the very best of their catalogue.

“A lot of people don’t know much of our music and there’s a conception of REO Speedwagon that we play the ‘softer’ side. There’s another side of what we do and we want to show the full spectrum of what we do.”

To do this, they have to condense almost 50 years’ worth of music into a short space of time, and the band have had a lot of experience at this as they play two types of concert.

REO Speedwagon

REO Speedwagon

They play a full set when touring alone, but a shortened set when they play double-headers, which they do quite a bit of; after touring with the likes of Styx and Def Leppard in the States.

“During the Def Leppard tour this year we tried some different songs and sets,” Cronin explains.

“We honed it down to a pretty effective 60-minute concert – which is great because on the Quo tour we have a 60-minute slot.

“There’s a pretty good balance of the uptempo stuff and the songs that people like to hear.”

Always enthusiastic, Cronin’s persona is an optimistic one, and he still has the fire in his belly for performing.

“I still enjoy singing those songs even though I’ve sing them thousands of times. And I’m still learning about singing and playing guitar.”

And appearing with Quo will give Croin some great memories.

“I think of Quo from the Pictures of Matchstick Men days. The sound was so psychedelic and the band I was in while at high school covered it. It’s gonna be an interesting tour.”

REO Speedwagon will be appearing as special guests on the Status Quo Last Night of The Electrics Tour at the First Direct Arena, Leeds on Saturday December 17. Doors 6pm. www.firstdirectarena.com

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