By the Way

Air guitar and devil horns at REO Speedwagon

By JEFF CLARK

jclark@sunherald.com

When REO Speedwagon lead singer Kevin Cronin told the crowd at the IP Casino Resort Friday night that they had become the “house band of Biloxi,” he was only halfway kidding. REO plays the Coast about every six months and the Coast crowd loves them for it.

Biloxi’s love for the band was evident Friday night when the IP crowd sang along with every song, songs they grew up with.

There’s a lot to be said about a thousands of people singing along to the band’s ubiquitous hit, “Take It On the Run," from “Hi Fidelity,” the band’s 1981 album that stayed at number one, when this was an actual thing, for 15 weeks.

You know the song. It’s the one where Cronin heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard from someone who heard it from his cousin who heard it from his best friend Larry who heard it from the pizza delivery guy who heard it from that guy who heard it from Honey Boo Boo’s attorney who heard it from another that his girlfriend had been cheating on him.

Because “talk is cheap when the story is good.”

This was the third song REO performed Friday night, and it just happens to be my favorite. I’m no stranger to “Roll With the Changes” and “Riding the Storm Out,” but I was 10-years-old when “Hi Infidelity” came out, and, like millions of people, I loved that record.

Do 10-year-olds even listen to music these days?

People don’t go to REO Speedwagon shows to be cool and aloof and stand in the back and nod their heads. No, they go to sing along and pump fists and dance, badly, and throw the devil horns in the air like they just don’t care.

My wife, while a fan of music, couldn’t care less about my obsession with classic rock and she rarely goes to shows with me. This allows me time to observe and people watch and talk to fans and sort of absorb the whole experience. And I learn a lot from these shows. I had no idea that casinos do not sell gum. Sure, it makes perfectly good sense, but is that something you just automatically assumed? I suspect not.

I met a guy in his late 20s at the show. He was from Pensacola and he and a buddy had won tickets to the show. It seems that his pal lost his ticket and was forced to sit in the balcony of Studio A instead of being down on the floor. But there’s really not a bad seat in the theater.

He approached me and we started chatting and he told me that he was excited to see the band. I assume he found me affable as he offered me various magical potions and elixirs throughout the night, to which I politely declined. You can’t stay in Hogwarts forever; there comes a time when have to put the potions and spells away for good.

We joined in on the sing-alongs of “Take It On The Run” and “Time For Me To Fly” and even “I Can’t Fight This Feeling.” But it was during a guitar solo on “Keep On Loving You,” which seemed to really resonate with him, that we bonded. He looked at me and said, “Dude," and played a bit of air guitar for me. I nodded politely and gave him the devil horns. We exchanged what was once known as a “high five.”

REO Speedwagon; bringing people together for more than 40 years.

Jeff Clark is a staff writer for the Sun Herald

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