BINGHAMTON, NY—October 25th brought local favorite REO Speedwagon to the NEW & IMPROVED Magic City Music Hall for a night of skilled entertainment that didn’t disappoint. Situated in a former grocery store and with the paint on its walls barely dry, the hall boasts a capacity of 3,000 and promises to be a location worthy of a drive for a show in an intimate, relaxed atmosphere.
Booked as the hall’s first major concert, REO’s show was strong and lively from opener, “Don’t Let Him Go”, to encore closer and pleaser, “Ridin’ the Storm Out”. Certainly no stranger to delivering a remarkable show, I’d argue vocalist Kevin Cronin could go up against any twenty-something in terms of stamina and presence and would, surely, surpass more than a few in the talent department. Cronin’s vocals on “Take It On the Run”, the third song of the set, were flawless and backed note-for-note by founder and keyboardist Neal Doughty, bassist Bruce Hall, guitarist Dave Amato, and drummer Bryan Hitt. Perhaps, though, Cronin was given a run for his money by the crowd during select sing-alongs (audience participation—rarely a bad thing!), and by Hall when he took over as vocalist on “Back On the Road Again”.
After a quick break before returning to the stage for a two-song encore, Cronin sat at a piano and shared how the opening chords of “Keep On Loving You” came to be and how, since then, the band’s life has never been the same. Considering that everyone in the audience sang along without forgetting a single word, I’d say the song is also one that’s become a part of everyone’s life, in some way or other.
At the show’s finish Cronin encouraged the audience to always support local music—an important cause in any community, but especially in an area that’s been overlooked on nearly every tour for the past 25 years. At Magic City REO Speedwagon performed well enough to turn the tide in upstate. Hopefully, with more bands like REO touring and playing venues off the beaten path, a vibrant music scene can take hold and, with any luck, thrive.
If, by the last few notes of the show, anyone doubted REO’s capabilities as a band and individual musicians, I’d say they should have been convinced of the band’s merit at the start of the evening. There’s a reason why bands like REO Speedwagon have been actively touring for decades. REO’s show on the 25th proved that they’ve still got a lot of talent, energy, and love for their fans to keep them going for decades to come. If this particular performance was any indication of the band’s future shows, you’ll regret missing out if you decide to stay in for the night.