Written by Dave Clements
May 12, 2012 at 07:00 PM
ImageI’m not sure I have had the opportunity to sit outside on a more beautiful mid-May night in Texas AND I have been here for over 30 years. Over twelve thousand people were with me as a nice cool north breeze blew through the The Woodlands Pavilion just as the sun was setting and REO Speed Wagon hit the stage.

When Kevin Cronin kicked it off with Don’t Let Him Go he and his band mates stayed on the GO right through a 12 song set that ended with Ridin’ The Storm Out.

Cronin and his ‘cronies’ came ready to please and if you were there I would be very surprised if you reached any other conclusion than mine.  Mission accomplished!

I would have gotten some way better shots in the HMR Photo Gallery but not for the fact that I had to shoot straight up at the band. Literally, we had about three feet to maneuver just below the mics.  Certainly not the most flattering angle to shoot aging rock stars!

ImageAs is usually the case the stage set and lighting were terrific for both REO’s and Styx’s sets.  When it comes to this aspect of the show, the Pavilion really has it’s act together!

The guys stopped their set to pay tribute to one of America’s heroes,  Astronaut Douglas Wheelock, who came out and presented the band with an old REO cassette that he had taken on his last mission into space;  The band was really loving the opportunity to have Wheelock there to help them kick off their song Fly, which was well received by the NASA friendly crowd!!  That same crowds’ collective voice resonated throughout the pavilion and across the lawn as they sang along to the chorus….”Time For Me To Fly”!   And as voices rose high in the cool night air, the perfect visual, a ‘space video’, played on the rear screen behind the band.

I am happy to report there were no shout outs for ‘FREEBIRD’, or if there were they were thankfully drowned out by the enthusiastic audience.

The musical lowlight of the opening set was Bruce Hall, bass player, doing Lead Vocals for a song.  Kevin and Neal Doughty, the only remaining original member of the band, gave Hall and the song  Back On The Road a big build up.

ImageUnfortunately as soon as Brother Bruce was at the helm alone it was obvious he wasn’t quite up to the task.  It sounded off key, clearly a mistake.  Hope there isn’t a requirement in his contract that he must be allowed to sing one song at each performance.  If so, the next time you  have the opportunity to see them it may be a good time to buy a beer, even at this venue’s ridiculously inflated prices.

What did work,very well, was Rolling With The Changes and the encore that started with Keep On Lovin’ You, followed by The Storm.

Styx is a band I had seen many years ago at the Astrodome, I think.  It was over twenty years ago and I MAY have been slightly under the influence that night.  I remember two things about that show, although a little fuzzy, and that is that they were really loud and that they sounded just like their records!  I was so blown away!  So I knew those memories were going to create an issue for second time around (especially totally sober).   Sure enough it did however I am happy to report that it didn’t ruin the evening for me.

ImageTommy Shaw kicked off their 11 song set with Blue Collar Man and had a bit of a rough start vocally but fortunately had great Styx  music backing him up.  Vocals were ‘in stride’ by the time Grand Illusion started and the band was really on a roll for Too Much Time.  (By the way, no one should have too much time on their hands.  The reality is there’s ‘No Time To Kill’!)

For me the evening’s musical highlight was Keyboardist Lawrence Gowan singing Lady. Certainly a terrific song in my book of favorites and I just liked the guy’s effort to perform.  He played some terrific keyboards in a very animated sort of way.  I think it shows in the Photo Gallery – check it out!  Also interesting, and unusual, he posed for me, an exclusive shot, period, paragraph.  Can you pick it out?

The evening ended with a musical trifecta – paying 50 to 1 !  Come Sail Away , the winner, Rockin the Paradise to Place, and Renegade to Show. Game over!  All in all, a wonderful experience, an evening of terrific bands giving it their best  for the long term to dedicated, grateful, and spirited fans.  Hope we see them again their next time around!