When I was 8 years old and heard the band’s name on the radio, I thought it was spelled with an “A,” as in “Areo,” which led me to a frivolous search through the record section of my local supermarket. With the help of a sympathetic cashier, I eventually found what I was looking for, REO Speedwagon. And the chart-topping Hi Infidelity found its way to my turntable for many, many rotations.
Fast-forward a few decades and thousands of album purchases later, and I’m seeing the band perform live for the first time. Nearly half of the band’s 14-song setlist is from that album. For myself and the rest of the 2,000-plus fans at the sold-out Emerald Queen Casino on Friday night, that was fine by us.
The band, fronted by 67-year-old Chicago native Kevin Cronin, kicked things off with “Don’t Let Him Go,” the same fast-paced rocker that opened that 1980 album I once searched so diligently for, followed by other radio- and prom-friendly hits such as “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” “Take It On The Run,” “Time For Me To Fly,” and “Keep On Loving You.” The band’s finale was the Tom Petty cover, “Listen To Her Heart.” It was an energetic, if short, set that left the crowd screaming and satisfied.
As for venue, the Emerald Queen Casino is a solid one: plenty of bathroom access, helpful ushers, solid stage views from every seat, and good sound. Current construction makes for a busy entrance to the grounds but once you’re inside the venue for a show, it’s easy to believe it’s 1980 again. And I, thanks to my friend, Bryan, even learned what the original REO Speed Wagon was: a light-duty truck that first rolled off a production line in 1915.
Another life lesson learned, thanks to rock ‘n’ roll.