Music News & Reviews

REO Speedwagon-Pat Benatar double bill hits the arena

REO Speedwagon played second at a 1980s rock two-fer Tuesday night at Intrust Bank Arena. But those who rocked just as enthusiastically to belter Pat Benatar and her charismatic husband/band leader Neil "Spyder" Giraldo might argue over who was the actual headliner.

During a three-plus hour show, both acts performed nearly all their greatest hits from the era that made them famous.

The crowd was small by arena standards — about 3,500 fans who filled the floor and about half of the lower bowl. But it was respectable considering that the same show drew just 5,000 to Kansas City's Starlight Theater on Sunday.

Benatar, known for her big voice and tiny frame, opened the show with a 13-song set that included every hit a Benatarian could ask for, including "We Belong" and "Invincible," which Benatar described as "a really great song" that "just happens to be from one of the worst movies ever made." (1985's "The Legend of Billie Jean.") Benatar, 57, bantered playfully with her husband of 29 years, and her giant singing voice was in full form, though it was noticeably gravelly when she was speaking.

And she spoke a lot, telling stories from her career that she promised were explained in greater detail in here new memoir, "Between a Heart and a Rock Place." (Benatar was at Watermark on Tuesday afternoon, signing copies of the book.) While introducing the song "You Better Run," Benatar recalled playing a rock festival in Oklahoma in 1981 when she and Giraldo learned that the video for the song had become the second video ever played on the brand-new network MTV.

The set also included "Love is a Battlefield," "Hell Is For Children," "Heartbreaker" and a song Benatar admitted she was sick to death of singing, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot."

REO Speedwagon, a band that also has enjoyed a 30-plus-year career, took the stage with a big, full sound provided by all five musicians and the unique, high-pitched voice of lead singer Kevin Cronin, no longer curly permed and now sporting short bleached-blond rock star locks.

Cronin peppily led the band through more rocking hits such as "Keep Pushin' " and "Golden Country," but the band also performed its signature power ballads, from "Keep On Loving You" to "Can't Fight This Feeling."

Fans stood and danced for much of the 13-song set, which also included "Time For Me to Fly," "Don't Let Him Go" and "Ridin' the Storm Out."

Introducing the song "Like You Do," Cronin talked about the band's early days, traveling the country in a 1972 Chevrolet Station wagon and playing venues such as Wichita's Cotillion Ballroom.

The show's opening act was up-and-coming musician Keaton Simons, whose mellow acoustic songs have been played in TV shows such "NCIS" and "Ghost Whisperer."

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