Gig review: Styx and REO Speedwagon serve up ’80s nostalgia

Styx vocalist and guitarist Tommy Shaw (right) leads his bandmates during their performance on Saturday August 6, 2022 at the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte.

Styx vocalist and guitarist Tommy Shaw (right) leads his bandmates during their performance on Saturday August 6, 2022 at the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte.

If you were looking for an 1980s fix on Saturday night in Charlotte, you’ve come to the right place at a nostalgia-soaked concert at the PNC Music Pavilion.

A triple project from Styx, REO Speedwagon and Loverboy produced four hours of hits straight from the era of big hair, indoor malls and MTV. And it was an impressive show overall, with each band largely focusing on the hits that made them famous – which is exactly what a show like this could do.

The show, which comes to Raleigh on Wednesday, seemed determined to bring back the 1980s for one night. In that it was successful, though none of us looked like we did then.

The main lead vocalists of all three bands were between 65 and 70 years old, with REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin being the oldest at exactly 70. Cronin jumped around the stage vigorously, as did Lawrence Gowan and Styx’s Tommy Shaw. Loverboy’s Mike Reno was a bit slower, but his vocals on “Turn Me Loose” and “Working for the Weekend” were the highlights of his band’s first 45-minute set.

Due to the relatively simple staging – drum kits on wheels, band logos that can be slid down almost as easily as curtains – the breaks between the three bands’ sets were minimal. If you’ve ever been to a music festival where this isn’t the case, you know how difficult it is to recreate concert momentum after a team of roadies took 90 minutes to reset the stage.

In this case, however, REO Speedwagon hit the stage just 15 minutes after Loverboy’s departure, launching a string of hits in a 65-minute set ranging from rockers like “Roll with the Changes” to ballads like “Time for Me. to Fly”. and “Keep Loving You”.

The band’s best album, the 1980 classic “Hi Infidelity,” was a staple in my album collection throughout high school and was prominently featured on Saturday. Cronin no longer has his big 1980s hair, but his vocals still took center stage on “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Ridin’ the Storm Out.”

REO Speedwagon Kevin Cronin
REO Speedwagon lead singer Kevin Cronin performs Saturday, August 6, 2022 at the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte. Benjamin Robson

After a 20 minute break, Styx played a driving 80 minute set to close out the night in front of a crowd I would unofficially estimate at 15,000. Highlights included ‘Come Sail Away’, ‘Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) and “Mr. Roboto.

Styx are so successful that it would take a show that didn’t include three bands in one night to play them all. But not including “The Best of Times” and “Babe” (both originally sung by former Styx frontman Dennis DeYoung) in the set is a disappointing choice.

On a happier note, Gowan once took a spin alone on his rotary keyboard — which he spun dozens of times throughout the night — and delivered a surprise. His solo version of Elton John’s “Rocketman,” which turned into a song, was one of the best segments of the night. Unexpected covers like this should be part of more live shows. It reminded me of Garth Brooks’ recent show in Charlotte and the medley he did of James Taylor songs, which was a delight.

Styx gig 2
Styx vocalist and keyboardist Lawrence Gowan performs Saturday August 6, 2022 at the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte. Benjamin Robson

A weak point: the traffic entering the room.

As usual, it seemed unnecessarily difficult. It felt like the kind of traffic jam that happens every year before the Coca-Cola 600, although the PNC Music Pavilion can only hold a fraction of the number of people that can drive to Charlotte Motor Speedway. While the restroom and concession lines seemed manageable this time around and the off-site workers were courteous and doing their best, traffic could surely be improved.

The crowd was overwhelmingly white and mostly made up of people between the ages of 40 and 60. Gowan once noted that the younger ones in the crowd either got a makeover or “embraced classic rock,” and it sounded more like the latter, judging by the applause.

But many in the crowd had experienced this music during their formative years the first time around. It showed in their knowledge of the lyrics and the way they hugged during the hits, of which there were many.

Styx setlist

  1. The fight of our lives

  2. Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)

  3. The Great Illusion

  4. Lady

  5. The crown crash

  6. To light up

  7. Sound the alarm

  8. Rockin’ paradise

  9. Be Wrong (The Angry Young Man)

  10. Too much time on my hands

  11. Khedive

  12. Rocketman (Elton John cover)

  13. Disappeared at sea

  14. Come sail

  15. Mr. Roboto (1st encore)

  16. Renegade (2nd bis)

REO Speedwagon Selection List

  1. Don’t let him go

  2. Take it on the run

  3. keep pushing

  4. live every moment

  5. tough guys

  6. I can’t fight this feeling

  7. Like you do it

  8. It’s time for me to fly

  9. Back on the road

  10. Ridin’ the Storm Out

  11. keep loving you

  12. Ride with the changes

lover concert
Loverboy lead singer Mike Reno performs Saturday August 6, 2022 at the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte. Benjamin Robson

Lover’s Setlist

  1. Famous

  2. Fortunate

  3. queen of broken hearts

  4. The kid is hot Tonite

  5. loving every minute

  6. Hot girls in love

  7. Let me go

  8. Work at the weekend

Sports columnist Scott Fowler has written for The Charlotte Observer since 1994. He has authored or co-authored eight books, including four about the Carolina Panthers. Fowler has won the Thomas Wolfe Award for Outstanding Newspaper Writing and won 18 APSE National Awards. He hosted The Observer’s 8-part podcast “Carruth”, which Sports Illustrated named “Podcast of the Year” in 2018.
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