Photo | facebook.com/REOSpeedwagon
Band: REO Speedwagon
Date: Monday, July 19 at 8 p.m.
Venue: Mobile Civic Center Theater, 401 Civic Center Drive, mobilecivicctr.com
Tickets: $49.50 to $129, available through Ticketmaster
With the help of terrestrial radio waves, the ’70s and ’80s were a golden age for pop-rock. In 1980, REO Speedwagon zoomed into the decade with the band’s most iconic album, “Hi Infidelity.” This number one album added timeless radio anthems such as “Keep On Loving You” and “Take It on the Run” to the band’s catalog of hits.
After taking what the band might say would be too much time off the road, REO Speedwagon is trucking through the U.S. again, just in time for the 40th anniversary of “Hi Infidelity.” Bassist Bruce Hall gave Lagniappe Music Editor Steve Centanni a peek into the creation of the classic album as well as the band’s much-anticipated return to touring.
Steve Centanni: REO Speedwagon has powered through the decades and even overcame the disaster that was 2020. How does it feel to be getting back on the road, especially after the past year?
Bruce Hall: Oh, it’s fantastic! We were all sitting around with cabin fever. We had never been off the road for that long. Every year we’ve been on the road. I can’t remember the last time that we’ve taken that much time off, ever. It was like a forced retirement in a way. Me and the boys in the band would have a Zoom meeting every Tuesday. It was at 7 o’clock my time. They all live in Los Angeles, but I live in Florida. We just wanted to talk to each other and see each other. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t forget each other and to see what was happening in each other’s lives. The pandemic just came out of nowhere and changed everything so fast. I’m glad it’s gone or is on its way. I don’t think it’s fully done yet. It made me thankful for a lot of things. It made me thankful for my band, that’s for sure.
Centanni: This year marks the 40th anniversary of the album “Hi Infidelity.” What do you think it is about these tracks that have made them so timeless?
Hall: When you make an album, usually, you just put out a bunch of songs that you’ve been working on. There’s not necessarily a theme or thread that goes through the whole album. That one had kind of a thread, and we didn’t mean for it to happen. We were all going through the same things in our lives. Because we were on the road so much, we were all having our own relationship problems. Things were happening. We started writing songs that were a little bit similar. I don’t know why it hit so many people the way that it did. I just know that I’m very thankful. Over 10 million people have bought that album. That’s pretty amazing.
Centanni: You mentioned writing the songs and it seems like songwriting was a group effort in REO Speedwagon. I know that you had a track called “Someone Tonight” that you even sang on the album. When you came together to create this album, what was the songwriting and/or the song selection process like?
Hall: At that point in time, we had two really good songwriters in our band. We had Kevin Cronin, who is a great songwriter, and Gary Richrath, who was our lead guitar player. He wrote some fantastic songs. A lot of it was just a toss-up between Kevin and Gary. We all had made demos at home of our songs. We’d bring them all together at rehearsal. We used to have our own little clubhouse we called The Clubhouse, and we would go in there and work on music. That’s where we worked on the songs for “Hi Infidelity.” I contributed maybe a couple more than “Someone Tonight,” but they didn’t make the record. That’s quite alright. A lot of them are songs that are really REO Speedwagon.
Centanni: What’s going through your head when you play live shows and see a younger generation singing the songs from “Hi Infidelity?”
Hall: I sit from my vantage point and can see all these young people singing right along, and it makes me very proud, especially when I think about how these songs are older than they are. It amazes me that they are there singing our songs back at us. I think there are a lot of kids these days who are curious about the music of the ’80s. A lot of people like to think that the 1980s were a special kind of diamond in the time of radio rock. I’m proud of that. I think that’s why they come. They want to see the people who did the songs.
Songs and music are part of the fabric of your life. It really is true. Over time, a lot of people have told me that when they first heard “Hi Infidelity,” they were in college. Now, I’ll talk to people at concerts and they’re older now and have children now or are grandparents, and they say, “That was the best album! We came here to hear you guys do it!” In a way, we’ve made this memory machine that we didn’t realize we were making. People want to come and hear the songs, and it takes them back to an easier and better and younger time. It’s quite amazing, actually.
Centanni: You mentioned earlier about having to take the year off and everything. How would you compare touring now after the pandemic compared to the early days?
Hall: When I first joined the band, they were basically working on the “Live: You Get What You Played For” album. We went on the road for five months and then went straight into the studio and recorded “You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish.” That was our routine. We’d write songs on the road mostly, until we got what we thought was a batch of really good songs. Some of the songs didn’t make it, but some of them are the ones that you hear on the records.
Then we’d go on tour. Sometimes we’d play what we had been working on on tour, but people didn’t want to hear new songs. They wanted to hear songs that they kinda know, but we’d play a new song now and then. Then, we’d go in the studio. That was our routine. We’d tour, then go into the studio and then tour. For the people in the band, it was great, because we were living our dreams. It’s still my dream. It was hard on everybody’s home life. The wives at home were getting sick and tired of us being gone all the time. The kids were growing up and you’d miss the special parts of that. That’s where “Hi Infidelity” came from, honestly. That was what was in the air at the time.
Centanni: For anybody who hasn’t seen you guys live in a while or seen you guys live ever, what can they expect from the live show this tour?
Hall: Well, I think our live show is fantastic. We have some great sets, and Paul, our lighting guy, is great. Our stage is like its own visual attraction. There are columns of light and microphone stands that are curved. As far as us, we’re all healthy and happy. We’re singing and playing and just getting back in the saddle. We just got back from playing for about two weeks, and I’m home till Thursday. The rust is all flying off and is all about gone now. So, now, we’re starting to play really well. It’s amazing.
We’ve been off the road for more than a year and a half. It’s not that you get rusty playing — it’s how you interact with the others. Taking the time off didn’t make it hard to play with the guys. I was just used to playing mostly by myself for a year. So, everybody is feeling the same thing. We’re all just getting back in the groove. It’s like getting on the horse and getting back in the saddle. You get your legs back and your chops come back, I guess.
This page is available to our local subscribers. Click here to join us today and get the latest local news from local reporters written for local readers. The best deal is found by clicking here. Check it out now.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here