Styx, REO Speedwagon, & Don Felder Bring Rock Unity To Jones Beach, NY 8-16-17

Each summer season brings an exciting new lineup of traveling Rock-n-Roll touring across the highways and byways of the USA. A good time to get outdoors and enjoy music under the stars, some of Classic Rock’s most familiar faces have been a part of the action in the summer of 2017 including Styx, REO Speedwagon, and former Eagle Don Felder. All respected names in the Rock community, how cool would it be to see them package in one bill? Well, doing just that, they launched the United We Rock tour on June 20th in Ridgefield, WA. No strangers to working together in previous years on tours, this year’s run see the 3 Rock legends crisscrossing their way across the USA, and on Wednesday, August 16th, they found their way out to the beach, Jones Beach to be exact, for an evening of good music and times at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater. 

A furtive glance around the amphitheater at Jones Beach provided a panoramic view of a sea of faces lit up from the mounting excitement and bodies quivering in anticipation of the unveiling of a special performance ahead. In fact, if one closed their eyes for a moment they would be hard-pressed to tell whether they had unwittingly entered Dr. Who’s TARDIS and landed in the ’80s or if they were indeed still in 2017. This in mind, despite the passage of time, Don Felder, REO Speedwagon, and Styx have certainly not lost their technique nor their passion for music. 

First to bring it to the stage was former Eagle’s Guitarist, Mr. Don Felder. Joining up with the Eagles back in 1974, Felder was an intricate part in helping the band find their heavier side. With the band through four of their biggest albums, after they broke up in 1980, Felder went on to a successful solo career in the ’80s before rejoining the band as hell froze over in 1994. Unfortunately splitting with the Eagles in 2001, Felder continues to strum, last releasing a new album in 2012, entitled Road to Forever. Highly act touring with his own band, Felder was anxious to return to Jones Beach once again. 

As stated, no stranger to Long Island in general, Felder fired up his vocals and strumming fingers showering the crowd with his heartfelt rendition of 1974’s “Already Gone” before “One of These Nights.” Mixing in his solo material, the thick bass soundtrack cut “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)” was followed by the classic “Seven Bridges Road” and lighthearted, breezy favorite “Witchy Woman” as many spectators lent their voices with unashamed abandon.

Keeping the mojo flowing, “Take It Easy” was a perfect celebratory summertime number which saw Styx’s Tommy Shaw join Felder on stage. Not the last of collaborations, later on, REO Speedwagon’s Dave Amato came out for set closer “Hotel California.” Definitely a karaoke favorite, prior to the long awaited classic, Felder gifted other hits including “The Long Run” and upbeat “Heartache Tonight” with a wailing guitar strum that had all dancing. Always a fantastic live performer, Felder left the stage amid thunderous applause. 

Now amidst a set change, the lights dimmed and the stage was bustling with activity as the stagehands set up the instruments and lights before it was showtime for REO Speedwagon. Initially founded fifty years ago, REO Speedwagon has sold more than 40 million records and charted thirteen Top 40 hits in their time. Dominating airwaves during the ’70s as well as ’80s with their unforgettable tunes, the stable lineup of founding Keyboardist Neal Doughty along with longtime Vocalist/Guitarist Kevin Cronin and Bassist Bruce Hall, as well as Lead Guitarist Dave Amato and Drummer Bryan Hitt have showed no signs of slowing down.

Last visiting Jones Beach in the summer of 2016 with Def Leppard and Tesla, they burst onto the stage fully loaded and ready to go. Before even striking a note, many female fans already had their hands flutter to their hearts, remembering their teenage crushes from long ago. From the sounds of cheering fans, both males and females eagerly waited to hear the first strains of music before the band broke out into “Don’t Let Him Go.” One of the many chart-topping hits at their disposal, they charged through an epic set of classic era REO Speedwagon material, picking songs off albums such as 1976’s R.E.O. and of course 1980’s massive Hi Infidelity. Enticing the audience with auditory gems, Cronin sang flawlessly as his bandmates provided a strong backdrop of guitar and keyboard driven instrumentation. 

Like turning on the jukebox, they blasted through “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” “Take It on the Run,” and the soaring “Time for Me to Fly.” Sounding just as they did on FM radio all those years ago, they also appeared to be having a blast on stage as they shuffled through signature tunes including “Back on the Road,” “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” before closing out with the fan adored “Keep On Loving You” and “Roll With the Changes.” Energetic, fun, and quite simply rocking, REO Speedwagon capped off another great show. 

Having already been entertained by two fine acts, by the time the night sky set in, spectators were in a euphoric state of mind awaiting Styx. One of Classic Rock’s more enduring acts, Styx has stood the test of time with their ever unique mix of Progressive, Pop, and Hard Rock tones. Recently returning with their first studio record in over a decade with The Mission, it is both a homage to and a reassertion of the band’s Progressive Rock roots. This in mind, Styx still has a long history of visiting Long Island over the years, so many were curious what they would bring this go around? 

Keeping everyone on the edge of their seat, as the lights flashed, they kicked into new song “Gone, Gone, Gone.” A good start, and introduction, it served as a reminder that they need to check out The Mission! From there they settled everyone into a comfort zone of known and beloved Styx songs including “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights),” “The Grand Illusion,” and ballad hit “Lady.” Continuing with “Light Up,” upon request, the crowd turned their phone lights on, waving them in the air and creating a very cool visual.

Then it was back to the future as Shaw wowed with tremendous vocal harmonies on “Radio Silence.” A welcomed entry, they mixed in one more new song later on with Lawrence Gowan simply dazzling on the keys for “Khedive.” Amidst it all was “Miss America,” “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man),” and carefree rumination of youthful vibe with “Too Much Time on My Hands.”

Speaking of meshing the past and present, the aforementioned “Khedive” fittingly segued into an animated interlude of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers.” Orchestrated perfectly, Gowan did not skip a beat as he continued into “Come Sail Away.” Appearing to be the end of the line, the crowd went wild, screaming out for an encore, and minutes later Styx returned. Starting off with “Rockin’ the Paradise,” they wrapped up the evening with a bow jamming into hard-rocking “Renegade” as James Young blistered on guitar, sending the audience home smiling. 

All in all, Styx were gracious performers who have stayed true to form. They savored the moment in the limelight and were happy to resurrect cherished memories nearly forgotten in the daily grind of responsibilities. For a few hours, many rekindled the candle of their youth. The light of innocence recaptured for a brief time. Together with Don Felder and REO Speedwagon they clasped hands, creating a sonic tidal wave that flooded Jones Beach with an assortment of treasured classic hits. 

Photo credit:Jonathan Weingarten Photography

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