04 September 2011: Akron Civic Theatre, Akron, Ohio
Let’s get this out of the way up front: I love Rick Springfield’s music. Love it. It’s of a time, but I’m ok with that. And, as I have said before, “Jessie’s Girl” might be the single greatest Power Pop song ever recorded.
Without having an older sister, I doubt I would have ever gotten into Rick Springfield. She was getting out of high school as I was just starting middle school, so the age difference was always a factor between us, but there are certain artists and songs that remind me of her. I remember her going to see Springfield in concert back in the day at least a couple of times (and thinking it was cool that Corey Hart was the opening act for one of those shows). When I told my sister that Tracy and I were going to the show, her reaction was first, “He’s still touring?” And second, “Does he have enough songs to fill an entire set?”
Maybe my expectations were too high, but, I mean, come on! It’s Rick fucking Springfield! All he has to do is come out, play his greatest hits collection, and everyone leaves satisfied. How do you screw that up?!
I guess the answer is by opening with a 2007 non-album track that only the die-hards will know. Hello, ironically named “Who Killed Rock N’ Roll”! You follow that up with a couple of decent tracks off 1983’s Living in Oz (“Affair of the Heart” and the title track), then play a cover song (I dig Paul McCartney, but if I want to hear “Jet” I’ll listen to a Wings album), and a track off his 2008 album called “What’s Victoria’s Secret?” (seriously).
But then came Mr. Springfield’s most egregious error of the night: the mid-set MegaMix™. Five songs into the show, he rips through the choruses of eight of his hits in a horrible, giant mashup. “I Get Excited”, “Bop ‘Til You Drop”, “Celebrate Youth”, “Calling All Girls”, “Jessie’s Girl” (just a one line teaser), “Don’t Walk Away”, “State of the Heart”, and “What Kind of Fool Am I?” were all represented. Tracy and I were dumbfounded, and rightfully worried we weren’t going to hear those songs again that night in anywhere close to their complete form.
Coming out of this bizarre A.D.D. warp, he played “I’ve Done Everything for You” (yea), “Venus in Overdrive” (which I’m pretty sure is about his sexual addiction – meh), “Rock of Life” and “Love Is Alright Tonight” (almost back on track), and some unknown Blues tune (which I’ve since realized was Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House” – but, another cover? really?!).
On paper, looking at how he wrapped up the main set might make you think he finished strong, but you’d be mistaken. I get that he has a shtick, and that he does it every show, but going into the crowd and passing the mic among very drunk women in their late 40s to badly sing “Don’t Talk to Strangers” is just a really bad idea.
“Love Somebody” was good, and “Human Touch” was... um, interesting as he waded into the first ten or so rows of the main floor seating area. “Jessie’s Girl” closed the main set, but by then we were almost too disillusioned by the previous 75 minutes of music to even enjoy it. And the distraction of the myriad drunken women hoisting themselves on stage and onto Springfield got old quick. (This coming from someone who’s seen Tom Jones in concert. Twice!)
The band returned for an encore. Unfortunately, we have no idea what the first song even was, and the second song was an album cut from Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet that neither Tracy nor I recognized until we looked it up.
Driving home from the show, Tracy and I continued to marvel over our disappointment. Tracy said the show wasn’t as bad as the one we saw Huey Lewis put on in Maui this Spring (a show we didn’t pay to see, or particularly want to see, but that I probably need to write about sometime), but it also wasn’t as good as the one the Limousines’ put on as an opening act back on Memorial Day weekend.
I told Tracy that there’s just no reason for him to put on a bad show, but he somehow managed to do it. And maybe that’s why his star didn’t continue to burn as brightly as it once did in the ’80s and why he’s not a superstar now.
And the MegaMix™ really honked me off more than it probably should, but, damn. Just play the songs, Rick.