REO Speedwagon, Styx & Ted Nugent Live in Wichita, Kansas

REO Speedwagon/Styx/Ted Nugent
Hartman Arena
Park City, Kansas
June 19, 2012

By Jeb Wright

Ted Nugent Set List:
Wango Tango | Just What the Doctor Ordered | Stormtroopin’| Wang Dang Sweet Poontang | I Can’t Quit You Baby | Hey Baby | Cat Scratch Fever | Stranglehold

Styx Set List:
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) | The Grand Illusion | Too Much Time on My Hands | Lady | Lorelei | Man in the Wilderness | Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) | Miss America | Come Sail Away

Rockin’ the Paradise | Renegade

REO Speedwagon Set List:
Don’t Let Him Go | Take It on the Run | Keep Pushin’ | Golden Country | I Can’t Fight This Feeling | Like You Do | Time For Me to Fly | Back on the Road Again | Roll with the Changes

Keep on Loving You | Ridin’ the Storm Out

The Midwest Rock ‘N Roll Express came screeching into the suburb of Wichita, Kansas, Park City, on June 19th as several thousand fans stood on their feet, from beginning to end, showering all three bands with loud cheers in thanks for their music.

First up was America’s Number 1 outspoken, politically incorrect, working hard, playing hard American Rock and Roll son of a bitch, Ted Nugent. Uncle Ted is one of last of a dying breed when it comes to putting on a balls to the wall, full on rock show. From the opening notes of “Wango Tango” to the ending of “Stranglehold,” Nugent and band bashed out a barrage of notes that rumor has it may have neutered livestock up to ten miles in circumference of the arena!

It would be easy to focus on Nugent’s recent verbal assaults on political figures; his meeting with the Secret Service and the fact that he not only enjoys killing Bambi but also likes skinning and eating her. Yes, it is all true. Nugent has never tried to hide who he is. Do I agree with all of his politics? No. Do I have an arsenal of weaponry in my house? No. Have I ever even shot a bow and arrow? Not since I was six and then it was one of those Kmart toys with arrows with suction cups on the end of them. Lastly, do I think Nuge crosses lines? Crosses them? No, he obliterates them the same way he obliterates an audience with his six string assault of epic proportions.

No, it would be easy to dismiss the music and focus on headlines and many do just that, choosing to bash Uncle Ted instead of simply reviewing his rock and roll show. With that said, Ted Nugent, the guitarist and musician, played his ass off. As much as his detractors love to slam Ted, anyone who says anything negative about his musicianship is simply lying. The man loves to rock his balls off as much as he loves to kill shit or make babies. Love him or hate him, Ted “Fucking” Nugent is one of the best hard rock guitar players to ever take the stage and his set list on this night was 50 minutes of sheer guitar mayhem.

It was refreshing to have all of his songs slammed into 50 minutes because that kept Nugent from using the stage as a political platform (sorry Ted but I really like hearing you play guitar more than hearing you chatter).

It was also wonderful to see, and hear, Derek St. Holmes on vocals and guitar. The Nugent/St. Holmes pairing is a musically magical paranormal event. Something special happens when these two men trade licks during “Stormtroopin’” or play harmony solos during the blues classic “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” Oh, and did I mention that St. Holmes can sing? His voice is as strong as when he was a kid singing on the Ted Nugent album. The rest of the band, Greg Smith on bass and former Dokken drummer, Mick Brown, round out a rhythm section that allows Nugent to strut his stuff.

Any Ted Nugent show would not be complete without a few antics from the wild man and tonight was no exception. When an attractive woman offered up a rose to Nugent, he took it and laughed, seemingly shocked that someone would give him a flower. Nugent said, “If I had a back strap I would give it to you right now.” He then added, “Someone get that bitch a machine gun!”

Nuge pumped the tour and said that “REO and Styx both play nice shit. We hate nice shit.” He then said that while the other bands play love songs, he has the best love song off all time. With that, the band kicked into “Cat Scratch Fever.” The show ended with a blistering version of the classic “Stranglehold” featuring St. Holmes’ amazing vocals and Nugent’s amazing riffs, licks and solos.

Next up was Styx. Led by Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young, Styx have a set list full of hit songs. The set was a mix of pop classics, hard rocking hits and even a deep album cut. Three bands on one bill limited the time Styx had on stage but they made the most of it.

The show started with a bang as they opened with “Blue Collar Man” before keyboardist Lawrence Gowan took over on the classic “The Grand Illusion.” Gowan has become the focal point of the band, as well as the master of ceremonies. His task of replacing the fabulous Dennis DeYoung was daunting one, but over the years, Gowan has become very comfortable with his place in the band. He is a showman, an amazing musician and he is able to play his instrument behind his back, while spinning around in circles and he even climbs on top of it.

Truth be told, Styx was good on this night, but not great. Shaw seemed to be going through the motions for much of the show. Having seen this band dozens of times I can report much of his shtick is just that. The smiles are rehearsed, the banter to the crowd the same every night and even the stage antics, ala running across the stage, are choreographed and done at the exact moment in each set, night after night. If one had not seen the band before then it would be extremely impressive. After seeing the same thing, time and time again, one tends to get tired of it.

The set gained energy as it went on, the high point was achieved when Gowan took center stage and did a sing-a-long with the crowd to “Another Brick in the Wall,” “Fat Bottom Girls” and other classic rock staples saving “Come Sail Away” for the end. As the crowd chanted the tune, Gowan ran back to his keyboards and played the piano intro.

The encore of “Rockin’ the Paradise” and “Renegade” ended the performance on a much higher note than it began. One can hope that Styx, who have been touring non-stop for over a decade, are not reaching a point of going through the motions. If they are, then a break is in order, besides, it would be interesting to hear what Gowan might do outside of the confines of the band.

The final act of the evening, REO Speedwagon, are a Midwestern favorite known for their live act. The band opened with a jam that quickly turned into “Don’t Let Him Go” from Hi Infidelity, which was followed by another massive hit from the same album, “Take It on the Run.” The band then went back to the ‘70’s with the classic “Keep Pushin’” as Dave Amato kicked in with a solo that took the song to new heights.

Vocalist Kevin Cronin addressed the crowd by stating that it had been 40 years since the band released REO T.W.O. and that the band was going to celebrate that album tonight. He told the story of the band coming up with the next song while living on their college campus. He then shared how the song continues to be relevant in the present day, “This tour has taught me that you can learn a lot, even from people whose beliefs are the exact opposite of your own.” Who could he be refereeing too? Ted Nugent perhaps? With that, the band performed one of the best songs of their career in “Golden Country.”

The band slowed it down with “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” in which Cronin stated that after seeing Rock of Ages he would forever have a hard time singing the tune with a straight face. “Like You Do” from REO T.W.O featured, again, Amato and his guitar extravaganza followed. The last three songs of the set, “Time For Me to Fly,” “Back on the Road Again” and “Roll with the Changes” ended the evening on a high note.

REO, once again due to the triple bill, were forced to cut the set short meaning we did not get 157 Riverside Avenue, which was a shame. Still, Kevin Cronin remains a great front man, songwriter and vocalist. Neal Doughty adds unique flavor with his organ runs while bassist Bruce Hall is a joy to watch onstage. His energy and wide smile show how much this band still love playing their music. Bryan Hitt, the drummer, is fun to watch as he pounds life into the live versions of the classics. Amato is a great guitar player and is a ball of energy on stage as he works his Les Paul to the core all night long. After a short break, the band returned and the two-song encore of “Keep On Loving You” and “Ridin’ the Storm Out” were stellar and ended the evening in a musical frenzy.

At the end of the day, the Midwest Rock ‘N Roll Express featured over 30 classic rock staples. The evening went from over the top energy and attitude (Nugent) to progressive power pop (Styx) to good old fashioned meat and potatoes rock and roll (REO Speedwagon). The evening’s rock and roll recipe mixed nostalgia, superb songwriting and excellent musicianship leaving all in attendance more than satisfied, proof that real rock and roll will never die.