At Arizona Pete’s They Don’t Wanna Sleep They Just Wanna Keep on Loving REO Speedwagon
‘“They’re good friends of ours,’” says Kevin Cronin, lead singer and guitarist for REO Speedwagon, as he watches the band Styx play on VH1 on the wall-mounted flat-screen TV on the wall. He folds salami and cheese and places them in between two crackers. It’s after 2 a.m. and he’s hanging out with a handful of Greensboro locals who talked him in to coming to party after the concert.
‘“I’ve only done this once before,’” he said earlier when he arrived at the home of a local businessman. He usually doesn’t go over to fans’ houses after a show and he seems a little apprehensive when he first arrives at the downtown condo. He is alone; he came in a cab with a couple of fans from the meet-and-greet after the show.
Guitarist Dave Amato and a road manager show up soon after Cronin, but they only stay a few minutes before heading back to the hotel. Cronin decides he’ll stay a while longer. He has no entourage, not even a bodyguard or a handler; he’s alone in this group of strangers. But soon he relaxes and is right at home. A couple of people pull out point-and-shoot cameras for quick snapshots. He gladly poses but asks that only a couple of pictures be taken and then the cameras put up. It’s too much like work, he says. His hosts agree and soon it’s back to light conversation. Nobody asks him questions about the band or life on the road, but they talk about ordinary things, treating Cronin like one of them rather than the rock star he really is.
Four hours earlier REO Speedwagon took the stage at Arizona Pete’s, a music hall packed tighter than a can of sardines as fans stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a mass and sang along with REO’s classics hits, ‘“Take it on the Run,’” ‘“Ridin’ the Storm Out,’” ‘“Can’t Fight this Feeling,’” ‘“Time for Me to Fly,’” throwing their hands in the air and screaming at the top of their lungs.
The 900-plus crowd was small for the band, as they still enjoy success in arenas and large city festivals. But the fans showed their appreciation and Speedwagon played it for all they were worth. The band was clearly happy to be playing this venue; Cronin, Amato and bassist Bruce Hall wore large grins as they ran across stage and played their instruments with fervent passion. The band that started out playing bars and touring in a rented Chevy station wagon seemed to appreciate being back in a small club, getting back to their roots, knowing they’ve come full circle and made a lasting impression on their fans over the years.
After the concert the band socialized with fans during a meet-and-greet in front of the empty Comedy Zone building, still all smiles as they thanked fans for coming to the show. They took lots of time and gave each person the chance to have a photo made or talk at length and band members asked personal questions to fans.
They genuinely care and truly appreciate the support fans have given.
‘“We’re having a little get-together after the show,’” someone says to Cronin. ‘“Please come.’” A few others mention the get together and Cronin mentions it to other band members.
Finally the crowd thins out and the large tour bus sits beneath a lamppost in an almost vacant parking lot. It’s after 1 a.m. now. Cronin turns to a couple of the girls.
‘“So who’s riding in the bus?’” he asks. ‘“We’ve got to stop by the hotel first.’”
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