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From The Pit To The Crowd: Styx and REO Speedwagon with Don Felder

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Tuesday, July 18th, the MidFlorida Credit Union Ampitheatre in Tampa, FL was blessed to have the iconic bands of Styx and REO Speedwagon making a stop on their United We Rock Tour. Don Felder is joining the tour in support of the bands. Styx and REO Speedwagon are co-headliners switching who closes each show. This night, REO Speedwagon was listed as the closer. DreadMusicReview was provided access to photograph and review the show that evening and I couldn’t have been happier.

It was a rainy drive towards Tampa, but the sun was shinning high on the MidFlorida Credit Union Ampitheatre. The rain got me there a little later than I wanted and when I received my photo credentials I learned that Styx and REO Speedwagon had switched spots so Styx would be closing the show. I quickly made my way to the photo pit where Don Felder was already on stage.

Don Felder is a Florida native born in Gainesville. He is best known as the former lead guitarist for The Eagles between 1974 and 2001. After his departure he became a solo artist and also contributing his music to movies such as “Heavy Metal” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”. Tonight, he was here to perform for the Tampa crowd and performed he did.

Don was very charismatic on stage in the way he spoke to the crowd and the way he played his guitar. The way he played he made his guitar sing to the crowd. There’s a reason he was a lead guitarist. Don decided to play a number of Eagles tunes that night. He started off with “Already Gone” and followed up with “One of These Nights”. He then went to his own solo work and performed “Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride)” which was featured in the movie “Heavy Metal”. After photographing I stowed my camera gear and headed back to my seat to enjoy the performance.

It was interesting to hear him perform these Eagle songs. The music sounded the same, though the vocals were different. Don Felder is an excellent singer and he performed the songs perfectly. Some of the other songs he performed that night included “Witchy Woman”, “Take It Easy”, Tommy Shaw from Styx came out to play with Don. He also played “Heartache Tonight”, “Life In The Fastlane”, and the well known “Hotel California”. Don brought out his 12 string to play The crowd definitely got behind each of the songs singing along with him and then provided him with solid applause for his performance.

As we were waiting for REO Speedwagon to arrive on stage, a downpour hit the Tampa area and put the show on hold for about 30 minutes. Fans were literally riding the storm out. The lightning and thunder was hitting us hard and rain was coming down sideways.. Once the storm passed, REO Speedwagon was ready to take the stage.

The rock band from Champaign, IL was formed in 1967 and has been going strong every since. They have sold more than 40 million records and had thirteen Top 40 hits. The band consisting of Kevin Cronin (vocals, rhythm guitar), Dave Amato (lead guitar), Bruce Hall (bass), Bryan Hitt (drums), and Neal Doughty (keyboards) stepped out onto the stage and hit the fans with “Don’t Let Him Go”. After the song, Kevin stepped out onto the walkway with two whiteboards that read “Hello Tampa!” explaining that when they went through rehearsal he had no voice and did his best to save it so he could perform for the fans tonight. I could tell he didn’t sound like himself because even after 40 years, Kevin still sounded good during performances.

Kevin powered his way through “Keep Pushin'” and when he started “Can’t Fight This Feeling”, the crowd could have sung it for him as they were so loud. After heading back to stow my gear, I quickly headed back to my seat as I didn’t want to miss any of their show. It was the first time I’ve gotten to see them live and even with Kevin not at full strength it was still a performance not to be missed.

They continued on with “Take It On The Run”, “Time For Me To Fly”, and “Back On The Road Again”. Then of course they had to play “Ridin’ The Storm Out”, which the crowd cheered loudly once the first guitar notes were played. They finished their set with “Keep On Loving You” and “Roll With The Changes”. Kevin did a great job pulling through his vocal issues and finishing the entire set. The crowd appreciated it as well with their screams and applause as the band walked off stage.

Due to the rain delay, the stage set up for Styx was running quick so I grabbed my gear one last time and headed down to the pit to photograph one of my (and my wife’s) favorite bands. I had just reviewed Styx’s performance at Sea World back in March so I knew what to expect for the most part, with the exception of the songs from the new album, ‘The Mission’, their first in over 12 years. The album ranked #6 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums in it’s first week of release.

Styx has been rocking since 1972. The band’s success includes 16 studio albums, 4 consecutive multi-platinum albums, 16 top 40 singles in which 8 of those were in the top 10 on the Billboard rankings. And honestly, who has never heard of Styx? The current line up includes Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitar), Lawrence Gowan (vocals, keyboards), James “J.Y.” Young (lead guitar, vocals), Ricky Phillips (bass), and Todd Sucherman (drums).

And before we knew it, Styx hit the stage to a roar from the crowd. They opened with “Gone, Gone, Gone” from The Mission laying down the hard rock beat everyone expects from Styx. Tommy, J.Y., and Ricky moved around on stage smiling and interacting with the fans. Every now and then they were throwing the photographers a wink or smile. Lawrence played on his keyboard, sometimes backwards, while Todd banged away on his drums. They followed up with “Blue Collar Man” and “The Grand Illusion” with Tommy on vocals to finish our pit run.

After stowing my gear for the night, I darted back to seat to watch the rest of the show. They continued through their set with the classic songs of “Lady” and “Lorlei” with Lawrence leading the vocals. They switched back to ‘The Mission’ playing “Radio Silence” (one of my favorites from the album. The harmony between the band on the chorus is so well done live, with Tommy Shaw on the lead. It is a truly amazing song.

Some of my favorite notable items of the night included J.Y. singing “Miss America”. It’s always a pleasure to hear him rip out some rocking vocals. Tommy pulled out an acoustic guitar for an amazing live version of “Crystal Ball”.  And Lawrence of course did his little solo of the opening of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Though I think the crowd was disappointed Styx didn’t go further and play the whole song as a collective “Awwwww….” went through the crowd when he stopped.

To close the show, Styx went back to some of their best classic songs including “Come Sail Away”, which I think has become their best crowd participation song. They did “Rocking The Paradise”, which I find to be a very high energy, play it hard and loud, song. And closed out the show with “Renegade” which to me is their quintessential hardest rock song. They left the stage with a standing ovation from the crowd that night.

Overall, this was an amazing show by all three bands. REO Speedwagon and Styx is a perfect blend of bands from the same time frame and same style of music. The addition of Don Felder was an added bonus. I strongly recommend catching this tour on one of the stops if you have the opportunity.