Album review: REO SPEEDWAGON – Live At Moondance Jam

CD/DVD – Frontiers Records [Release Date 29.11.13]

It’s a strange feeling to be reviewing a CD of a gig I have fond memories of attending, especially as it was nearly four years ago and the band are scheduled to play the same festival next summer.

I reviewed REO Speedwagon’s Friday night headline at 2010 Moondance Jam for GRTR!, describing them as a ‘road tested, straight ahead rock band with a big sound perfect for festivals such as this’ and that I was  ‘uplifted by the joy that they bring to their craft’. I didn’t know it at the time, but an encounter at that festival was also to change my life…

I remember seeing the show being was professionally filmed for American TV, and with REO having pretty much accepted their status as a nostalgia band, some new product has to keep the tills rolling (with the changes) , I guess.

They were at the time making the 30th anniversary of Hi Infidelity and the time honoured REO opener Don’t Let Him Go is followed by the mega ballads Keep on Loving You and Take it on the Run, sandwiched by In Your Letter.

From then on it is pretty much the definitive REO set, that could have been taken from any show over the last 15 years, except for the brief period when they had new product to promote. On that level it might be seen as a rather pointless release.

However it shows them in their natural habitat, going down a storm with an appreciative crowd of mature years at a festival in the Mid West. The one missing factor is that Kevin Cronin’s camp monologues have been trimmed to ensure an hour and a half set can be crammed onto a single disc!

Ballads are kept to a minimum (other than Can’t Fight This Feeling of course) in a set that shows that despite appearances to the contrary, they are simply a great live rock n roll band with Golden Country and Like You Do a nod to their more progressive pre-commercial seventies period.

The closing quartet of Back on the Road Again, Roll with the Changes and encores of Riding the Storm Out and 157 Riverside Avenue define mid-western classic rock in the live setting.

An enjoyable listen if an inessential purchase given the familiar material. Better still beg borrow or steal to get to Northern Minnesota yourself next summer and witness doubtless the same show at the best festival there is.  ****

Review by Andy Nathan

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