Turnout for REO Speedwagon 'phenomenal,' fair board member says

Saturday, September 15, 2007
Bass player Bruce Hall, guitar player Dave Amato and lead singer Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon play for the crowd Friday at the SEMO District Fair grandstand. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

It might have been 1980 again Friday night for REO Speedwagon. The classic rock band sold out Arena Park's grandstand for its SEMO District Fair concert. When fair board members added portable bleachers, most of those seats sold, too.

Peggy Berryhill, 44, and Dee Kinder, 43, both of Cape Girardeau carried their chips and sodas to the highest bleacher seat in the grandstand.

"We're here for the memories," said Kinder, who hadn't been to a live rock concert in nearly 25 years. She and Berryhill joked about how they have "rolled with the changes," referring to one the band's hits from the 1970s.

Kevin Cronin, REO Speedwagon's lead singer, paused between songs early on to apologize to the crowd for having "a throat cold."

"We came to Cape Girardeau for one purpose and one purpose only. To party!" he said, before launching into "Keep Pushin'," which many fans said they were hoping to hear. The audience roared its approval and didn't seem to mind when Cronin's voice disappeared momentarily later in the evening.

Fred Higdon stood between the grandstand and portable bleachers, playing along on his air guitar. His daughter, Joy Livesay, and her two toddlers were nearby.

"I've been on the fair board for 15 years," Higdon said. "We're trying to appeal to everyone."

After conferring with fellow fair board member Patty Turner, they agreed it was the biggest crowd since Willie Nelson and the Statler Brothers' concert seven years ago.

"This," Higdon said, waving a hand toward the packed grandstands, "is phenomenal."

Not everyone was thrilled. Weldon Macke, a Cape Gir­ardeau resident who has volunteered for the SEMO District Fair since 1954, said it was his first rock concert.

"I'm not a real music lover," he said, while checking tickets to the VIP seating area.

Austin White, 9, held his hands over his ears to block the sound.

"My grandma made me come here," said the country music fan.

Though he wasn't likely to be picking up the band's latest CD, "Find Your Way Home," others, like Rich Porzelt, 44, and his son, Johnny, 16, were.

The Porzelts were at their third REO Speedwagon concert. The first classic rock concert the pair attended was when Johnny was 5.

"He fell asleep in my lap in the middle of the concert," Rich Porzelt said. "But I was rockin' on."

Chris and Krystal McLane held tickets from his employer, Drury Southwest. The couple said they weren't huge REO Speedwagon fans but looked forward to a night off from a busy life with two small children.

Robin White, 43, of Jackson arrived with pal Wendy Snowden, 37, of Marble Hill, Mo. White got the tickets, a surprise, from her husband.

"I was so excited I couldn't hit the numbers on the phone," she said. She was trying to call to invite Snowden.

They especially wanted to hear "Roll With the Changes."

"It fits every day, no matter what," said White, grinning.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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