Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon and Styx awed concertgoers at Blossom Music Center Saturday night during a stop on their Midwest Rock ‘n’ Roll Express tour in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
The astonishment expressed during Nugent’s set, however, was actually due to disbelief of his character instead of
admiration for his music.
Nugent opened the night and while he can undeniably play a mean guitar, his in-your-face attitude really turned off most of the audience to his set. He paraded around onstage, almost every word out of his mouth a cuss word, speaking only about how great he thought he was or how awful the government and liberals are.
Hits “Cat Scratch Fever,” “Doctor” and “Stranglehold” were catchy and sounded pretty good, but Nugent’s behavior ruined any chance of enjoyment for me.
While patches of supportive fans were scattered throughout the audience, it was clear from the grimacing looks on most people’s faces and lack of applause that they were as repulsed as I was.
REO Speedwagon performed after Nugent’s short set, delighting the swaying crowd with many of their hits such as “Time For Me to Fly,” “Keep on Lovin’ You” and “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore.”
The band was like a salve that soothed the burn Nugent left the audience with. Concertgoers got out of their chairs and danced, waved their lighters and sang along to the 80s love songs.
Interestingly, the band played the politics card, too, by performing their song “Golden Country,” which criticizes America’s unequal treatment of its citizens.
Yet, lead singer Kevin Cronin didn’t shove his political ideas down our throats or call them profane names for disagreeing with him, so his song was enjoyed whether audience members agreed with his statements or not. Nugent could learn a thing or two from Cronin’s example, I thought.
REO Speedwagon obliged the cheering audience with “Riding the Storm Out” as an encore to their solid set of classic rock.
But Styx, as the final performer, was truly the night’s star.
The band sounds just as great live as it does on its recordings, getting the entire audience on the floor dancing and singing along. The band has a natural yet powerful stage presence.
When keyboardist and vocalist Lawrence Gowan spun his keyboard around and played it backwards, then later stood on it as he sung the hit “Come Sail Away,” the crowd went absolutely crazy.
The band played its set so seamlessly and with what looked like such little effort that all the audience could pick up on was how much fun the band must have putting on this show every tour stop.
Playing “Renegade” as its encore was a good choice, as it’s one of the most beloved songs and extremely high energy. While dancing and whistling my head off, I wished the set didn’t have to end.
I definitely recommend the Midwest Rock ‘n’ Roll Express tour for the great music, electric energy and stellar showmanship of REO Speedwagon and Styx. But if you, like me, would rather not have to stomach “Uncle Ted” due to his ego or politics, you might want to consider his set a good time to grab a snack from the concession stands.