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Concert review: Scottsdale audience turns loose for Loverboy

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Loverboy in concert, November 30, 2013, Scottsdale, AZ

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It’s not unusual, once the oppressive summer heat leaves the Valley and the bitter cold returns to places up north, to see a group of Canadians hanging out at a Scottsdale resort. What is unusual is having them go up on a stage at said resort and perform a live show for an hour and forty minutes. But five Canadian visitors, also known as Loverboy, did just that. On Saturday night, November 30, 2013, at the Talking Stick Resort Showroom, in front of an appreciative sold out audience, Loverboy brought the 1980’s back to life. All that was missing was the ability to crank up the volume on one’s car cassette player.

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Loverboy was the epitome of 1980’s bands. Lead singer Mike Reno, with his trademark bandana and tight leather pants and writing partner, guitarist, Paul Dean, created ready for MTV hit songs such as “The Kid is Hot Tonight” and “ Working for the Weekend.” They captured the power ballad market with “When It’s Over,” and “This Could be the Night.” But could Loverboy still bring their energy of thirty years ago to the stage today?

The answer is a resounding yes. As Doug Johnson’s keyboard work introduced the night’s opener, 1987’s up tempo rocker, “Notorious,” the crowd stood and cheered as Reno took center stage and delivered vocals every bit as impressive as they were thirty years ago.

Crisp versions of two of Loverboy’s top 40 hits, “Lucky Ones,” and “Queen of the Broken Hearts,” followed. Unlike many Scottsdale classic rock audiences, a fair amount still remained standing, bobbing their heads and singing along.

And then things changed. Rather than deliver a note by note rendition of their studio work, the band went into a lengthy version of the already lengthy “Take Me to the Top,” the song which closes their 1981 second album, “Get Lucky.” The sultry synthesizer work of Johnson and the bass line supplied by Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve had a bump and grind feel which had bodies swaying in their seat. Mid-song, Johnson left his keyboard and delivered a sax solo before returning to add a keyboard solo as well. Loverboy was no longer a hit pop band. They were a cool jam band.

Saying you appreciate Loverboy for their musicianship will raise as many eyebrows as saying you read “Playboy” for the articles. But watching Paul Dean shred on his guitar, Sinnaeve continually attack his bass and allowing Johnson to cut loose on his keyboards, shows you just how good these musicians are.

Equally enthralling was drummer Matt Frenette who got to show his under-appreciated ability with a drum solo and then a drum/bass guitar duet with Sinnaeve. The impressive interplay between Frenette and Sinnaeve is not something you would expect to see at a Loverboy concert.

But Loverboy’s bread and butter is drive with your top down and your volume up songs like “The Kid is Hot Tonight,” with a dash of power ballads. Reno belted out the passion found in “This Could Be the Night” and still was able to nail the high notes in “When It’s Over.” Sandwiched between the two ballads, Reno had the audience up and dancing with “The Kid is Hot Tonight,” complete with the crowd doing an admirable version of the required “whoa” found in the song’s chorus.

Dean and Sinnaeve blistered through “Hot Girls in Love,” with both, along with Reno, posing for the perfect cell phone photo-op moment.

The main set ended with two top ten hits, “Turn Me Loose,” and “Working for the Weekend.” The enthusiasm of the crowd had not waned, with most back on their feet, singing, clapping and dancing along. Reno’s vocals still could “fly” as he impressively went high when needed.

A solid three song encore closed the night. Once again Johnson opened the proceedings with the lengthy keyboard beginning to “Lady of the 80’s.” “Lovin’ Every Minute of It,” had the crowd dancing with their arms up. And when Reno told the audience to “Jump,” they did.

It’s important that when visitors come in from out of town, that they have a good time. The members of Loverboy seemed to be having a great time on stage. That the fun spilled into the audience was an added bonus.

Set List: Notorious | Lucky Ones | Queen Of The Broken Hearts | Take Me To The Top (with a sprinkle of Riders On The Storm | It’s Your Life | This Could Be The Night | The Kid Is Hot Tonight | When It’s Over | Hot Girls In Love | Drum Solo | Bass and Drum duet | Turn Me Loose | Working For The Weekend | Encore: Lady Of The 80’s | Lovin’ Every Minute Of It | Jump

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