There is a reason we call it classic rock, and we were reminded of just how great it is on Sunday night at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor, Maine when the United We Rock tour came to town with Don Felder, Styx, and REO Speedwagon. For me, these legendary rock artists bring back memories of a time when the smell of a brand new vinyl LP was a beautiful thing and the unmistakable sound of the needle finding the groove for the very first listen was perfect expectation. Now, so many decades later, seeing these artists that wrote so much of the soundtrack to my life is still a thrill.
I have to be honest, writing a review for artists of this caliber isn’t easy. There are only so many ways to say “they were really great.” And of course they are. I mean, seriously – these guys wrote THOSE lyrics, THOSE riffs, and nailed down THAT sound that helped to build rock music history. They know how to put on a show that has you singing, dancing, and forgetting that you are now nearer to retirement than you ever thought was possible.
Don Felder started the show with a ten song set of Eagles’ hits with his fan favorite “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)” as a bonus. Noted as one of our greatest rock guitarists, Felder is like watching velvet on the stage. Happy, working the crowd, and jumpstarting the energy of the show, Felder is divinely understated perfection. The songs are shifted just the slightest bit, so it seems, and feature a signature Felder grooviness. Joined on stage by Styx’ Tommy Shaw on banjo for “Take it Easy,” the crowd was on their feet and singing along. Before we knew it, the white double neck appeared, and it was time for “Hotel California.” Joined by David Amato of REO Speedwagon, the crowd was thrilled. This was, as expected, a fantastic set.
Styx was up next, and hit the Waterfront stage featuring Lawrence Gowan on vocals for “Gone, Gone, Gone,” from their latest release, The Mission. I was happy to see this. Gowan has been stealing the show for years and featured heavily in the set list. He is a tremendous presence and talent – and he’d have to be to keep up with Tommy Shaw and JY Young. As fast and furious and compelling as always, Shaw and Young nail every step and note. They are amazing. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Grand Illusion, the set was heavy with cuts from that album. Also included was “Light Up” from their 1975 release, Equinox. Completing the night with “Come Sail Away,” “Rockin’ the Paradise,” and Tommy Shaw’s “Renegade,” the crowd was in rock and roll euphoria. As always, Styx gave the fans a terrific performance.
REO Speedwagon was spot on to their usual performance. Starting out with their hit, “Don’t Let Him Go,” and sailing through a long list of fan favorites, Kevin Cronin gives it all he has. Featuring the heavy rotation hits like “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Time for Me to Fly” the crowd enjoyed the show, singing along and reliving memories. A highlight of the show, as always, is Bruce Hall’s “Back on the Road Again,” and early REO rocker “Ridin’ the Storm Out.” REO always pleases their longtime fans, and fills the night sky with Bangor’s Waterfront choral society.