Arena rock is still alive and well as proved by the packed Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon and Styx concert at the The Idaho Center two weeks ago. As with any good concert experience, part of the fun is weaving and bobbing through a tightly packed crowd in search of refreshments and steeply priced souvenir T-shirts on the way to your seat. Here's how this particular show went down: Styx didn't miss a beat. REO insisted on singing some new songs ... what? And Def Leppard was loud. Sadly, loud does not a rocking show make.
Guys with long, gray hair dominated the stage. The look was the costume of the night and it worked. Even from seats a mere three rows from the top of the stadium, otherwise known as "nosebleed" seating, audience members screamed until they were hoarse.
The show openers were classic rock band Styx. As the band played on, the Idaho audience screamed, hollered and hooted in all the right places, and sang along to all the songs. The energy was contagious and exhilarating and the rockers didn't have to reach back very far into their repertoire to offer up their best hits, which sounded even better than on the radio. Members of Styx spoke to the audience asking, "Was it as good for you as it was for us?" and saying, "Idaho, you are so good, we just want to give you ... things. The least we can do is play one more." The crowd stomped and held up real lighters—not just using the lame illumination from cell phone screens to show their excitement. For the encore, the lights came back up and there stood on the stage, four members perfectly spaced, the originators of the rocking wide stance. The keyboard player followed his revolving instrument around; guitarist Tommy Shaw strutted in his timeless, sexy way; and the drummer worked his drums over like no one's business. Then at the end, they graciously introduced the next band. It was sad to see Styx exit the stage.
Second on the lineup, REO Speedwagon, with all the smoke and lights, was a sight to behold. Even the dudes in the audience howled and carried on during some of the finest examples of guitar rock. The band slowed it down and sang "Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore" for the ladies. The band spoke to the audience, too, saying that they try and do their part to change the world and keep each other warm, and then launched into "Riding the Storm Out." The beautiful blend of voices during "Keep on Running" was a real treat.
Def Leppard headlined the show, but earplugs came in handy during their set. Unfortunately, something was definitely missing from their performance. Beginning the show with a black and white video of women in bras introducing Def Leppard's new single with guest vocalist Tim McGraw was not the way to go. They played some selections from the High and Dry album but did very little to get the crowd as pumped up. The offering of acoustic love ballads was cringe-inducing and even the glistening pecs of the shirtless guitar hero was not enough to save the experience. Waiting until the very end of the concert to play any rock anthems was not a good choice after the offerings from the other two awesome openers.
Lights, smoke and loud rock does not automatically make a kick-ass show, and Def Leppard clearly was not having a good night. Thank the rock gods for Styx because those guys made the whole concert worthwhile. Styx, Styx, Styx ...