You know when you go to a concert and it’s an artist you know well and you really just want the hits? But invariably they are promoting a new record and will always throw in a few new tunes…? We’ve all been there and usually the new stuff is OK, but nothing that sticks in your head.
I must say, I’ve been there many times before, but was pleasantly surprised last Saturday night by several of the new tunes Rick Springfield wowed with. Two in particular felt like big hits to me. “I Hate Myself,” a hard-driving pop/rock song with a great hook, killer guitar riff and super-sexy vibe. The song sounded almost familiar even though I was listening to it for the first time--that is when I know it’s a good song--and it’s been stuck in my head since. It’s one I’ll want to hear when he plays live again and again.
“You & Me” could and should be on the Billboard charts today. It’s a perfect pop song with such an endearing chorus hook—a song that inspires crowds to wave their hands in unison. And I have to say I was impressed that the 64-year-old Springfield could hit the high notes while performing it live. His voice seems as strong as it was 30+ years ago, not something all singers are blessed with as they age.
In fact, all the songs he played from his latest release, Songs For the End of the World were really good, including the strong and rocking set opener, “Wide Awake,” the self-deprecating-ish “Love Screws Me Up” and “Our Ships Sinking” that sounded like it could have been on Working Class Dog; it was classic Springfield and that is a good thing. This may be one of Rick Springfield’s strongest overall albums in a long time – kudos!
As for the rest of the set, it could not have been better. I’ve said it numerous times, set planning is one of the keys to a great show and this show was paced perfectly, inserting the hits in just the right places. Combined with the strength of the new material, this made for one heck of a live show; just the right mix of rocking guitar solos and acoustic breaks, the perfect blend of fast and slow at just the right times.
And there is never anything a fan could ask for more than lots of Rick – and he delivered. This set of 19 songs, plus a medley of parts of seven hits and lots of stories made for a nice long set. He included his signature windmill guitar move; spraying rose petals from the dozens given to him by adoring fans and his now famous “Human Touch-run” through the crowd. He seems to make his way through to a surprisingly large number of fans; hugging, shaking hands and really connecting. Although I do feel bad for him, a few ladies in my row grabbed more than his hand!
Rick Springfield really does seem to love to play live and clearly has an appreciation for his fans that is reciprocated many times over. I first saw him 33 years ago and over the years, seeing him many, many times I am always pleasantly surprised at how much he still seems to truly love being on stage connecting with fans.
It’s almost a cliché to say that he gets better with age; I’ve said it so many times before. He really is an amazing performer and looks amazing for any age – but for 64? Come on! He seems to be embracing his age, announcing he’d recently had a birthday (he was born August 23, 1949) and playing a bit of the McCartney-penned Beatles’ classic “When I’m Sixty-Four” just before launching into a blistering version of McCartney & Wings “Jet,” – one of my favorites from that band.
At the risk of jumping up on my soap box, I will say that Rick Springfield is maybe one of the most underrated performers of his generation. I think to some extent, we all know he has been pigeon-holed and type-cast as the teen heartthrob who wrote “Jessie’s Girl”. And yes, he has done so much to disprove that, but why a song like “You & Me,” isn’t on the charts right now is mind-boggling. In my opinion, it’s the music industry’s lack of depth and the unwillingness to listen. And don’t let me get started on his insane talent as a guitarist. At one point, I think during a bluesy cover of “Wild Thing”, his fingers were moving so fast on the fret board, I wondered if Eddie Van Halen had come on stage! OK, enough of my soap box. Rick Springfield is a phenomenal talent and tremendous performer – that’s it.
Huge thanks to Rick Springfield, his band, crew and management for always putting on a great show, making sure fans are treated well and for bringing us world-class entertainment every time they set foot on the stage.
Set List - Phoenix (Chandler) Arizona – Oct. 5, 2013
I’ve Done Everything
I Get Excited
Our Ships Sinking
Affair of the Heart
I Hate Myself
Medley - (Bop ‘Til You Drop, Celebrate Youth, Calling All Girls, Jessie’s Girl intro riff, Don’t walk Away, State of the Heart and What Kind of Fool am I)
Love is Alright
You & Me
My Father’s Chair
Don’t Talk to Strangers
All My Loving (listed on set list, but I don’t recall this being played – they did riff the Beatles “She’s So Heavy during band intros here)