Perhaps it was portent that the hottest day of June coincided with one of the hottest rock lineups of this summer’s tours arriving at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. The Midwest Rock 'n Roll Express Tour featuring REO Speedwagon, Styx and Motor City Madman Ted Nugent came roaring in to Clarkston, MI. on June 28th bringing three of the greatest arena rock bands together on one amazing bill. The sweltering, static heat permeated the grounds and even the pavilion offered no respite for the thousands of fans determined to see these legendary rockers perform, the pavilion and lawn at nearly full capacity.
REO Speedwagon kicked off the night with “Take It On The Run”, the crowd immediately jumping in on the chorus, loud enough to carry over the hill and in to the parking lot. The breadth of the fans in attendance and enjoying the band spanned many generations, from baby boomers rocking 40 year old REO concert shirts to college students that appeared to have been raised on the band as kids by their parents. Everyone knew the words, everywhere I looked people were singing and dancing along to each song. Pretty impressive to see the staying power of a band that has been around for over 45 years now, and shows no signs of slowing down. Rounding out their short but powerful set with classics such as “Keep On Loving You”, “Time For Me To Fly” and a smattering of other songs, REO Speedwagon still retains all of the magic and sound that’s sure to keep them rocking well in to the next decade.
The well established and iconic prog/hard rockers Styx took the stage next, the energy of the packed venue surging as they launched in to “Blue Collar Man”, the members strutting on stage backed by years of experience and showmanship. The band wastes no time in electrifying the crowd, prancing from one end to the stage to the other, interacting with the crowd, flicking picks to the fans, smiling and pointing to long time fans as they jam song after song. Backed by a massive video display, they continue on with “The Grand Illusion” and “Too Much Time On My Hands”, adding a small break in the set for a piano solo, something you don’t often get at a rock concert. By the time they wrapped up their set with “Renegade”, the sun was setting, the people screaming for more, thunderous applause and cheers abound.
It’s hard to top a Detroit party with a headliner like the man himself, Ted Nugent, who many look to as the very definition of Detroit rock and roll at its best. The spirit of Detroit was alive in full force by now, the party in full swing on the lawn, as they waited for the legendary rocker to blast off his set. The lights dim, smoke pours forth, and Ted charges forth to stage center, where encased in a cloud of fog and light he greets the crowd with a hearty “KICK OUT THE JAMS!!!! MOTHERFUCKERS!!!!” Blazing in a fury of guitar, the band dives right in to “Gonzo”, like a punch in the face, and Detroit is alive again with the Nuge. Never showing any signs of growing old, he pounces around the stage, engaging the audience with his maniacal smile, the glimmer of his crazy days still simmering behind his steely gaze. During “Wango Tango”, his wife Sheamane joins him on stage with her friend and fellow Zumba dancer Susan Stokely to shake for the crowd. Dancing away while Uncle Ted titillates the fans with commentary on their dance moves, “Y’all like that shit? Yeah, I sure do! Look at that fineness!”, the ladies light up the stage, riling up the crowd (and hormones) to 11 on the dance dial. Stomping through a broad range of his expansive library of songs, including “Free For All”, “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”, “Live It Up”, “Fred Bear” and many others, Ted and company brought the walls down at DTE Energy Music Theatre. The day might have been hot as hell, but this night was even hotter when the final notes flew out of the amps.
The The Midwest Rock 'n Roll Express Tour continues on to the following dates:
Jul 03 - Verona, NY
Turning Stone Resort Casino
Jul 05 - Uncasville, CT
Mohegan Sun Arena
Jul 06 - Big Flats, NY
Jul 07 - Gilford, NH
Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavillion
Jul 08 - Bangor, ME
Bangor Waterfront Pavilion
Due to a snafu at the will call office, I wasn't able to get in the venue in time to get any REO Speedwagon pics during the first three songs. Sorry!