If you had taken a shot every time one of the performers screamed “Colorado!” from the stage at Red Rocks during Tuesday night’s ’70s classic rockfest, you’d be, shall we say, drunk. If, for a bonus round, you’d taken a shot every time someone pointed from the stage and got the crowd to sing a verse or chorus, you’d have been passed out in a pool of your own vomit.
Of course, even if the cheese was laid on extra gooey, it didn’t necessarily detract from enjoying the spectacle. Unlike 2011’s Styx/Yes show at Red Rocks, which was a bizarre pairing at best, Tuesday’s lineup of Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon and Styx brought album-oriented rock to a rabid, near sold-out audience that ate up every lick, groove and wail like it was manna from heaven.
Nugent started the night off in fine style, gaining bonus points for most creative use of guitars not played. A Gibson Les Paul was hung in front of every speaker stack, and more were put on stands on top of the stacks. Nugent also hung a Colorado flag from one guitar stack, and made reference to Red Rocks being “God’s country” before launching into “Cat Scratch Fever,” which he described as “the sexiest guitar lick ever,” then closed with the classic “Stranglehold.”
Next was REO Speedwagon. If Kevin Cronin’s voice seemed a little thinner, he could still hit most of the high notes during REO’s set. During the opener, “Take it on the Run,” images from the band’s opus “Hi Infidelity” flashed on the screen behind them.
Cronin seemed overly wordy at times, delivering a pompous speech about finding common political ground and alluding to possible political differences between the three passionate acts before launching into “Golden Country.” Other stories worked better, such as his anecdote about first hiking to the top of Red Rocks with his mother when he was two, and of course the story about writing “Ridin’ the Storm Out” after the band was caught by a snowstorm while on a hike near Estes Park.
Styx finished the evening off with its usual well-oiled performance. After the first few songs, it seemed the band was playing a note-for-note rendition of last summer’s show, but there were some changes.
There’s something about Styx that breaks through the cynicism and has you pumping your fists almost against your will. Even some of the band’s longer songs, like “Come Sail Away,” aren’t very complex, but perhaps that is part of their genius.
Lawrence Gowen added a classic rock touch by having the audience sing parts of “Black Dog,” “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” and “We Will Rock You,” as the intro to “Come Sail Away,” and he laid the bombast on thick by standing on top of his keyboard during the final verse. The seemingly ageless Tommy Shaw ripped through “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” and “Too Much Time on My Hands” with gusto, and original bassist Chuck Panozzo was welcomed to the stage on several songs, including the encore of “Renegade.”
Wango Tango, Just What the Doctor Ordered, Free for All, Stormtroopin’, Hey Baby, Wang Dang Sweet Poontang, Red House, Cat Scratch Fever, Stranglehold
Take it on the Run, Keep Pushin’, Golden Country, Can’t Fight this Feeling, That Ain’t Love, Son of a Poor Man, Time for Me to Fly, Back on the Road Again, Roll with the Changes, E: Keep on Loving You, Ridin’ the Storm Out
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights), Grand Illusion, Too Much Time on My Hands, Lady, Lorelei, Man in the Wilderness, Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)*, Miss America, Pinball Wizard ->Layla->Black Dog->Another Brick in the Wall Part 2->We Will Rock You->Come Sail Away*, E: Rockin’ the Paradise, Renegade*
*with Chuck Panozzo on bass
Michelle Hedstrom is a Denver photographer and a new contributor to Reverb.