There’s a first time for everything and so it is with Chicago and REO Speedwagon. These two Illinois bands have toured many summers in combination with other popular rock bands. For Chicago, memorable tours with Earth, Wind & Fire, the Beach Boys, or The Doobie Brothers come to mind. REO Speedwagon has spent the last two summers touring with Styx and Ted Nugent. But despite even being on the same record label at one time, Chicago and REO Speedwagon never have toured together.
That all changes this summer, as on Saturday, August 2, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. at the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, Chicago and REO Speedwagon will both perform on the same bill. Each band will perform their own sets and then in one climatic finale, combine bands to play six songs together.
Chicago and REO Speedwagon have a lot in common. Both bands started in 1967 and come from cities in Illinois, Chicago from, duh, Chicago and REO Speedwagon from Champaign. Both were with the same record company, Columbia/Epic. Both started out with a harder rock style in the 1970’s, but found success with softer rock hits in the 1980’s. Both groups have keyboard players who are founding members of their bands and have been with their band since their inceptions. Since 1968, both bands have had multiple lead guitarists, but have each had only two bass guitar players and two drummers.
Yet, each band is distinctively different. Chicago is the “rock band with horns.” With hit songs such as “Make Me Smile, “25 or 6 to 4,” “Colour My World,” “Saturday in the Park,” “Call on Me,” “If You Leave Me Now,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” “Look Away,” or “Hard Habit to Break,” Chicago has produced a wide variety of popular music which spans musical genres such as rock, jazz fusion, progressive rock, soft rock and power ballad rock.
REO Speedwagon had a string of hard rock hits in the 1970’s. During the time the pop music world was dominated with disco music, REO released songs such as “Keep Pushin’,” Ridin’ the Storm Out,” and “Roll With the Changes,” songs that received airplay on FM radio stations that still played rock and roll.
But in the 1980’s REO Speedwagon went in a more pop sounding direction and released songs such as “Keep On Loving You,” “Take It On the Run,” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” The result was one number one album, 1980’s “Hi Infidelity,” and two number one hit songs.
Neither Chicago or REO Speedwagon are content to rest on their 1970’s and 1980’s success. REO Speedwagon released a new studio album, “Find Your Own Way Home,” in 2007. Chicago released “Chicago XXXVI: Now” on July 4th of this year. You can expect to hear a song or two from “Now,” during Chicago’s set.
REO Speedwagon’s lead singer, Kevin Cronin, said earlier this year in a press release, “With so many personal connections between various members of REO and Chicago, it is amazing that we have never actually toured together. I love it that the Chicago guys feel the way we do about truly playing together when you tour together. Can you imagine the Chicago horn section on 'Roll With the Changes'? That would blow my mind! This tour promises to deliver some unique music from two bands who have made a ton of hit records, share that Midwest work ethic and still refuse to sit back on their past accomplishments. We both keep raising the bar, challenging ourselves and rocking hard... and the audience is the ultimate winner. We are psyched... I can't wait for this tour."
If you are willing to blow off a Saturday in the park and catch the show at the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, tickets are still available through Live Nation. Tickets are priced from $39.50 to $126 plus fees.