Photo: Janice French
Tailgaiter parties in the parking lot, big blankets to lie on, big hats to keep the sun out and big sounds to greet us. Fans and families come out by the generations to get a glimpse of beloved rock gods.
Great White opens the show with ‘Call It Rock’n’Roll’ and immediately set the bar high. Charismatic Jack Russell takes over, struts about and weaves his way through the vocals with swagger. The band is back in full gear with the return of Michael Lardie and his beat up blue guitar. They sound good, really good; we’re a bit amazed actually. Over ten thousand people have already milled in, they take to their feet and cheer during ‘Face The Day.’ From their new album “Rising” Great White remains in the running as the fresh driven beat of ‘Situation’ hooks the growing mob.
Eddie Money starts off tentative and shy. ‘Two Tickets To Paradise’ warms him up, then he delivers with ‘Think I’m In Love.’ His personality shines through as he unabashedly flips his tambourine, tells rehab jokes and drinking stories. He gets serious and announces “This is for our men and women in uniform” then sings ‘Peace In Our Time.’ The audience sings along with ‘Take Me Home Tonight,’ they adore him. Afterwards, a young boy comes up to me and proudly shows me his photo with Eddie.
The funk rock of WAR gives us ‘Cisco Kid’ as the golden sun sets. Founding member Lonnie Jordan leads a tight group of musicians who drift from ‘Slipping Into Darkness’ to ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ with ease. The crowd dances, drinks beer and shouts. A party mood sets in. Vision’s of “Cheech and Chong” come to mind as WAR gives a suave smooth performance of ‘Lowrider.’ They’re fun.
The mega band Styx plays the intro of ‘Miss America’ to a screaming rowdy horde who rock out while pushing for a position closer to the stage. Tommy Shaw’s vocals are exquisitely perfect as he sings ‘Crystal Ball’ and Gigwise is enthralled. Styx has recently been joined by Tod Sucherman who was named Modern Drummer Magazine’s #1 drummer in the world. Tod is a joy to watch as his fists fly through ‘Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man.)’ A well timed and brilliant light show helps us all to ‘Sail Away’ and down that river Styx.
Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon has character and grace. He leads the band on through ‘Don’t Let Him Go’ and memorizes us. They still have it. Lovers in the audience cuddle and sneak a kiss as the band plays ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore.’ Gigwise takes on a challenge as the photographers angle and posture trying to catch Kevin Cronin with the full moon overhead. The band must think we’re nuts. The style and skill of REO shines as ‘Son Of A Poor Man’ picks up the pace. Between songs, someone starts a Ford Mustang in the display area and the heads of at least two thousand men snap in its direction. Ah some sounds never change and REO’s hasn’t either as ‘Riding This Storm Out’ keeps the masses loving them.
The festival in photos: