There was a surprising lack of both hair dye and ego on stage at the PNC Arts Center in New Jersey Sunday night, despite the tens of millions of album sales between the two main acts. I suppose you could argue the reason for the modesty was because it’s been a couple of decades since either act has had a hit album, but as someone who routinely sees acts from the 70’s and 80’s, I can attest that a lack of current relevancy rarely affects a band’s perception of self-worth. Yet, both Loverboy and Rick Springfield went from mega hit to mega hit with nary a whiff of pretension oozing from the stage.
Loverboy was ubiquitous in the 80’s with singles hitting the top of the Billboard charts from the very beginning of the decade with the song, “Turn Me Loose”. Their string of top 40 hits ended after 1987’s “Notorious”, and the band broke up. They had reformed a few times of the years, but seemed to have done so in earnest with the 25th anniversary release of the “Get Lucky” album in 2005. They’ve been touring frequently since then.
Full disclosure: I played my copy of “Get Lucky” so many times when I was a kid, I wore out the vinyl and had to go to Camelot Records in the Cutler Ridge Mall to buy another one. I also liked 1983’s, “Keep It Up”, but by then, I had gone from being “kind of” into new wave to trying to dye my bangs blonde (epic failure) and swearing allegiance to any band with a British accent.
Nevertheless, I’ve always had a warm spot in my once 12-year-old heart for Loverboy. I secretly suspected going to see them in concert would be a cheesy affair, so I never made an effort to do so. Shame on me. Yes, Loverboy was, visually, a little rough around the edges, but they sounded fantastic.
The band took to the stage with what seemed like slight trepidation, but it didn’t take long for lead singer, Mike Reno, to get the crowd to its feet. Flanked by guitarist, Paul Dean, and bassist, Ken Sinnaeve, Reno reminded everyone that Loverboy was once one of the top bands out there. By the time sax player and keyboardist, Doug Johnson took center stage for a sax solo during, “Take Me to the Top”, the audience didn’t need much more reminding.
The band finished their set with the one song guaranteed to be heard on every classic rock station each Friday, “Working for the Weekend”. It was a predictable, but welcome, choice to close their set.
After a quick stage change, the venue darkened and a video highlighting Rick Springfield’s continued pop significance lit up the screen. Yes, a lot of that relevancy was tied to his successes in the 80’s, but with recent roles in the latest Meryl Streep film and on HBO’s second season of “True Detective”, the musician/actor reminded the crowd that he isn’t just a point of nostalgia.
Springfield turned 66 years old on August 23rd. I knew this because when I was 11-years-old, I memorized his birthday. I loved him and you had to make sure to remember the important things about your loved ones. “Working Class Dog” was the first LP I ever owned and pop culture devotees never forget those important milestones. Yet, despite having been able to enroll in AARP before most of the audience, Springfield bounded onto the stage as though he had too much energy from sitting around the “General Hospital” set all day.
The set opened with the newly released song, “Light This Party Up”, but quickly moved into familiar territory with the 1981 hit, “I’ve Done Everything for You”. When a fan rushed the stage to throw a bouquet of roses, Springfield snatched the flowers up and used them to play his guitar. The crowd roared their approval and from that point, security had a hard time keeping people in their assigned rows.
There were a few duds in the set list. With a huge catalog to choose from, it’s a wonder why the author of one of the most recognizable songs of all time, “Jessie’s Girl”, would choose to cover an overplayed Katy Perry song. Perhaps it was intended to appeal to the kids in the audience, but “Roar” felt out of place. Similarly, the cover of the Trogg’s hit, “Wild Thing” seemed unnecessary. Overall, Springfield was at his best playing his own music.
I have seen hundreds of concerts over the years, but I have rarely seen any band or musician work as hard as Springfield to please the audience. He regularly left the stage to go out into the crowd, at one point going so far as to use my shoulder as ballast to serenade a sleeping baby wearing headphones. It was no surprise to learn many members of the audience have seen the performer dozens of times.
The set list was filled with all of Springfield’s high points with a few deeper cuts thrown in to please long time fans. Instead of ending the night with “Jessie’s Girl”, he ended with, “Kristina”, an album track off of the 1983 record, “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet”. The choice might have been confusing to non-fans, but to the throngs who pushed past security before the encore, it was exactly what they wanted; a night out with old friends.
LJ Moskowitz is a photographer and writer based out of New Jersey specializing in concert, product and fine art photography. She is an active member of the National Press Photographers Association and Professional Photographers of America. You can find her at Shutterchick Photography, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.