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REO gives Midland crowd another chance to celebrate the Royals

Kevin Cronin and REO Speedwagon performeded Thursday night at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland Theater.
Kevin Cronin and REO Speedwagon performeded Thursday night at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland Theater. rsugg@kcstar.com

The crowd at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland enjoyed one more gust of Royals mania and one more blast of World Series euphoria Thursday night.

About 2,000 fans showed up to watch classic-rock stalwarts REO Speedwagon deliver a 90-minute showcase of its greatest hits. Several times during the show, lead singer Kevin Cronin aroused a pep-rally fervor by mentioning the Boys in Blue and their world championship run. By show’s end, he would be joined at the piano by the World Series trophy.

The rest of the show was typical REO: a fusillade of hits that generated loud, prolonged singalongs from a crowd that seemed to know every word to every song. This was the band’s eighth concert in Kansas City in nine years, but fans here haven’t tired of the show, which changes little from one year to the next.

They opened with “Don’t Let Him Go,” a track from the blockbuster “Hi Infidelity” album, now 35 years old. They followed that with something even older, “Music Man,” from the band’s second album, “R.E.O./T.W.O.,” released in 1972. Cronin, 65, hasn’t lost much range in his helium-infused voice. Nor has he lost any enthusiasm for songs he has performed thousands of times.

After “Music Man” came a string of hits and favorites: “Take It On the Run,” “Keep Pushin’,” “In Your Letter” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” This was a sit-down show, but the crowd was on its feet almost all night, singing fervently with some of the most saccharine power ballads ever written.

Cronin told a few stories. “In Your Letter,” he said, was written after keyboardist and founding member Neal Doughty came home from a tour and found a Dear John letter from his wife telling him she’d left him for a guy who had been supplying them illegal substances. “Neal said, ‘I’m really gonna miss that guy,’ ” Cronin wisecracked.

Before “Golden Country,” Cronin paid tribute to Gary Richrath, longtime guitarist for the band and his “rock and roll big brother,” who died in September. For “Back on the Road Again,” he turned lead vocals over to bassist Bruce Hall, who embellished the performance by jamming with lead guitarist Dave Amato.

They ended with a flourish. The singalong to “Time For Me to Fly” was uproarious; “Roll With the Changes” was rollicking and rambunctious. Before the encore, Cronin emerged from backstage with a bag filled with merchandise, an REO shirt and a Royals pennant, which he gave to people up front. He said they were items left behind from the parade and rally on Tuesday.

He then went backstage to retrieve one more thing he said was left behind and re-emerged with the World Series trophy. After the band posed with it and fans broke out another “Let’s Go, Royals” chant, Cronin brought out Mike Swanson, the Royals vice president of communications and broadcasting, whose ties with the band go back to the days REO was playing Summer Jam at Royals Stadium. Then Cronin put the trophy atop the piano, took a seat and lit into “Keep On Loving You.”

They finished with a torrential rendition of “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” a classic-rock anthem with a local connection: the more-famous live version was recorded during a show at Memorial Hall in 1976. After that, as the band took its bows, Cronin expressed gratitude for all the love and congratulations for the World Series title and sent the crowd out into the chilly night and back into baseball withdrawal.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

SET LIST

Don’t Let Him Go; Music Man; Take It On the Run; Keep Pushin’; In Your Letter; Can’t Fight This Feeling; That Ain’t Love; Tough Guys; Golden Country; Time For Me to Fly; Back On the Road Again; Roll With the Changes. Encore: Keep On Loving You; Ridin’ the Storm Out.

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