Jingling bells rock

REO Speedwagon adds Christmas to their Hobart Arena Troy stopover

Still rocking after 50 years, REO Speedwagon returns to Troy. Photo: Randee St. Nicholas.

By Tim Walker

The holiday season is filled with traditions – some of which, admittedly, remain more popular than others. As the weather turns colder, we cringe as we suddenly find ourselves inundated by ornamental Christmas trees, secret Santas, stockings on every hearth, gaudily decorated houses with synchronized flashing LED lights, and CD’s of rearranged holiday songs performed by popular musicians from the worlds of pop, country, and even heavy metal music. Silent night, indeed.

REO Speedwagon, those hard-rocking hit makers from Illinois, have just re-released their own album full of holiday tunes that’ll definitely have you rockin’ around the Christmas tree. The band, who will be performing at Hobart Arena in Troy on Saturday, December 2nd at 8 p.m., remains a consistently popular live act, and their concerts sell out regularly, but it’s the Not So Silent Night… Christmas with Reo Speedwagon album that longtime REO bassist Bruce Hall is excited about during his recent conversation with the Dayton City Paper.

“I love it. I think anyone who loves REO Speedwagon is going to love this thing,” says Hall, speaking from his home in Orlando, Florida. “It’s got 17 songs, and there’s one song on it that Kevin (Cronin) and I wrote called ‘I Believe in Santa Claus.’ It’s a really cool little song. We tried to record it several times — this is like the fourth rendition of it. We tried it with acoustic guitars, and that sounded all right, but it didn’t sound like us. So, we tried a couple more different arrangements of it, and finally we got what sounds like an REO Speedwagon song. Kevin came up with a really cool way of looking at it.”

“When I realize how long we’ve been together as a band, and that we’re still doing this – we’re just very fortunate.”  – Bruce Hall

REO Speedwagon is, of course, one of the biggest selling and most popular American rock bands of the 1980’s. Formed in 1967 in Champaign, Illinois by keyboardist Neal Doughty and drummer Alan Gratzer, the band weathered numerous personnel changes in its early years — for example, their first three albums featured three different lead vocalists. Once the lineup solidified, however, with songwriters Kevin Cronin on vocals, Gary Richrath on guitar, and Hall on bass, the band began seeing moderate chart and radio success with songs such as “Roll With the Changes,” “Time For Me to Fly,” and “Ridin’ The Storm Out.” It was their 1980 breakout album Hi Infidelity, however, which planted them firmly in the public’s consciousness. The album contained the monster hit singles “Take It On The Run,” “Keep On Loving You,” and “Don’t Let Him Go,” and was recently awarded “Diamond” status for over 10 million copies sold domestically. More recent hits such as “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Here With Me” further solidified the band’s place in the hearts of its fans and continue to keep them enthusiastically flocking to the band’s live shows.

“We will be doing our regular set list in Troy,” says Hall when asked whether the band will be performing any of the songs from the Christmas album. “We love playing live, and can’t wait to see all of our Ohio fans on this trip. We might do the Santa song, which would be great. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

In addition to the original song “I Believe in Santa Claus,” Not So Silent Night… Christmas with Reo Speedwagon, an updated re-release of the band’s 2009 Christmas album, contains 16 newly remastered holiday classics such as “Silent Night,” “Deck the Halls,” and “Blue Christmas.” The new 2017 version also has three previously unreleased bonus tracks, and one new bonus track, “We Three Kings,” which was previously released only as part of an iTunes exclusive format.

Hall, who wrote and sings one of the band’s enduring hit songs “Back on the Road Again,” recalls joining the band in 1977.

“I was friends with the band before I actually joined — the band started in my hometown of Champaign, Illinois. I also played in another band with Gary Richrath, who was like my brother, before he joined REO Speedwagon. So, I kind of knew all the guys before I actually joined the band, and it made things much easier. It’s just amazing — it’s hard to believe that was 40 years ago. I don’t think about it very often, but when I realize how long we’ve been together as a band, and that we’re still doing this — we’re just very fortunate. I’m just so glad to have this band, still. It’s just been great. And for Neal, who actually started the band, it’s been 50 years. It’s crazy. But it’s wonderful, too.”

Wonderful, crazy, and joyous — REO Speedwagon’s upcoming show at Hobart Arena in Troy promises to be all of the above, and will be the perfect chance for their local fans to get together and rock away those holiday blues.

REO Speedwagon will perform on Saturday, December 2nd at Hobart Arena, 255 Adams St. in Troy, Ohio. The show starts at 8 p.m. For tickets or more information, go to hobartarena.com or call 937-339-2911.

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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