I Want My MTV!

It took a while to leave State Bank Amphitheatre Sunday as the packed house emptied. A stream of women walked past the car talking, He’s 69-year-old! Holy crap!” I softened what they really said in that last line to keep things PG, but every person that streamed by my car as I attempted to pull out was talking about the same thing. Rick Springfield, who headlined this night, celebrated his 69th birthday this night with the crowd. I have to admit, I was thinking the same thing from the time he announced it on stage to even now as I write this, but holy crap, is he really that old? As I sat there at the show and in the car I did the math and sad, but true, the “Working Class Dog” has been around that long. I’m old.

It was the album, his fifth, Working Class Dog that caught my ear and millions more as it and the three albums after all were platinum sellers. Not bad for a doctor from General Hospital. I always like Springfield’s music and never knew for sure if I should admit it and consider it more of a guilty pleasure. The majority of his material I know is of the power pop and area rock style, which is one of my favorites. But with my leanings towards alt rock I was always afraid I wouldn’t be taken seriously for loving songs like “Jesse’s Girl” and “Human Touch”. I also wasn’t sure what to expect live. I knew he did this thing where he was handed a bouquet of flowers and then shreds them on his guitar – it’s almost a gimmick or at least you await it to finally happen – and it did. But this was one powerhouse show. During his set Springfield was all over the stage, putting kids 40 or more years younger to shame. After telling the crowd it was his birthday he took off his sweat soaked shirt to change revealing a physique most 20-year-olds would be envious. Not to stop there he literally ventured into the packed crowd (with security escort of course) and walked around the arena, high-fiving fans and going on. It was more than a rock concert, this show was actually fun. Of course all the hits were there, but Springfield played new material off of The Snake King, his newest effort released in January. Yep, Rick Springfield is a ‘80s rocker who is still relevant today. You just have to look harder to find the music – or go to his show, which is highly recommended.

Prior to Springfield, Loverboy took the stage. I discovered Loverboy the same time I discovered Rick Springfield in the spring of 1981. I remember like it was yesterday. My best friend graduated high school early and got a job as a draftsman at Ted F. Dugan & Son. He got his first adult apartment and roommate that wasn’t one of his classmates. I would go hang out on the weekends with him and his roommates and friends as we listened to music, talked crap and even talked about going to the Sports Page to hear this badass local band Wizzards (or something like it). Chuck (my best friend) would come pick me up and we listened to his 8-track of Working Class Dog (yes, it was that long ago) from Lookout Mountain to his new apartment in East Brainerd. While sitting on the couch and chilling he handed me his newest find, Loverboy. He played me the singe, “Turn Me Loose” and I was hooked. The album art was cool and the songs catchy. The self-titled debut was the first of four consecutive platinum albums.

But as the band got more popular their music went more for the mainstream, as I was into new wave, post-punk and eventually what was to become alternative rock. I still liked the band, but not outwardly. And thanks to KZ 106, I became totally sick and tired of the song, “Working For the Weekend”. Scott Chase used to wear that song out of Fridays as a precursor for the coming weekend. It got to the point I detested the song. That song along with “Weekends” by Wet Willie, which KZ 106 always played on Fridays as motivation to get through the day for the weekend was upon us.

Loverboy was your stereotypical glam ‘80s rocker sans eyeliner before the term was in use. The ripped jeans, long hair and strategically worn bandannas not only around the head, but one leg became the staple for many a Halloween costume for wannabe karaoke rockers. I even remembering when I was road tripping with a band that happened to be booked at a neighboring frat house side by side their bitter rival as I watched the two lead singers get into a verbal war. “Yeah, you think your so cool,” the one singer said. “With your fan blown hair and your bandanna tied around your leg like Loverboy.”

Some of the songs got downright cheesy for me like, “Hot Girls In Love”. But as I age I find myself mellowing and revisiting stuff I’ve either written off or ignored entirely. It’s nice to relive the past; Mike Reno and company did a fine job of recapturing the magic for the baby boomer crowd (majority female) who were in attendance.

We went from two multi-platinum artists to two acts that were both one and two-hit wonders to open the show. Prior to Loverboy, Greg Kihn hit the stage. Of course Kihn is the two-hit wonder on the bill. I can still remember riding in my friend Scott’s Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am listening to the “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)” on a warm summer afternoon in high school. There was something I always thought was cool about Kihn. Unlike a lot of rockers he had a sense of humor. His album titles were always variations of his name like RocKihnRoll, Kihntinued and Kihnspiracy for example. Then of course came the “big” hit, “Jeopardy”. Back in the glory days of MTV (that I wax poetically here about all the time) you could not miss this song and it’s great video. It was long after that Weird Al parodied the song and to make it a true pop culture icon of the song even Kihn did a cameo in the Weird Al video at the end.

Kihn is a good old-fashioned rock and roll, simple three power chords with a great beat and hooky lyrics. It’s a shame he’s not known for more songs than the two. But unlike a lot of his fellow rockers, he never quit playing and recording new music, last year releasing Rekihndlked last year which some may say is a return to form, but if you listen to his catalog it’s obviously Greg Kihn. He does what he does best – play rock and roll and has fun doing it. Besides playing the “big ones” he threw in “Pink Flamingos from the new album. All well received.

Starting the night was the one-hot wonder. And what a hit it was. Tommy Tutone started the night. His name of course is familiar for seven digits – 867-5309 – perhaps the most famous one-hit of them all. Every ‘80s compilation is not complete without this song. Growing up in an era before you had to key in your area code that number was local as well to where I lived. A bunch of us wondered if “Jenny” would answer or who is now famous for having that number. The actually beauty of the song was that 867 prefix was everywhere across the country and while I’m sure a lot of cussing was done about the number being called or pranked it made the song that much more personal because we thought in our little minds it was “our number” the song was written about.

What many people don’t realize is Tommy Tutone is the band that is led by Tommy Heath. I think Heath gave up on the idea of trying to separate himself from it. On this particular night he was the only “member” of the band. He had backing players obviously. Hi set was short but sweet and it’s obvious his wheelhouse is in blues and blues-rock. Heath is a skilled musician and in his brief time on stage he showed the full house.

The ‘80s were indeed alive and well with four similar, yet diverse artists that made an amphitheatre want to shout, “I want my MTV!”

– Dave Weinthal