by Michael McCarthy
First of all, I have to tell you something. When I go to shows that I’m there to review, I always write and post one. But when I go to concerts purely for leisure, I usually don’t review them because, well, I don’t think writing reviews is my strong suit. Anyone who’s familiar with this site knows that my gift is for doing interviews, particularly in-depth ones. But once in a while, I do go to a show for fun that I end up reviewing anyway because I’m either very impressed or just plain disappointed. In the case of Rick Springfield’s show last week at Mohegan Sun Casino’s Arena, I’m writing this because well, the show was so f-ing awesome that I simply must!
I have to begin this by saying that I’ve been a fan of Rick Springfield ever since I first heard “Jessie’s Girl.” I’m 46, so I was still a kid when that one came out in 1981, otherwise, I’m sure I would’ve heard and loved his earlier material, of which there was quite a bit. A few entire albums, in fact. But the album “Jessie’s Girl” hails from, Working Class Dog, is one of my favorites from the era and I grew up listening to his music. So, I’ve been a fan of his for just as long as the heavy metal guys I interview regularly on here. However, I do have to admit that after Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil came out in 1983 and I caught the video for “Looks That Kill” on a USA Network music video show called Radio 1990 about all I listened to for the next decade was heavy metal and rock. Mostly metal. So, that was the music I grew up on and I have to admit that I lost track of Rick’s music by 1984 because at that point my 10-year-old self had decided that everything except that sucked.
Still, I always thought Rick was great even if I wasn’t buying his albums during the second decade of my life. But I checked him out again in the mid-90s because at that point heavy metal was generally dubbed “hair metal” and was despised by most fans who had listened to it, which I found so frustrating that I started a hair metal zine called ANT, The Only Cool Magazine That Bites, to show my support. My point is that during that era, I figured most of Rick’s fans had turned their back on him, too, so that motivated me to finally get some of his other albums from the ’80s as well. And I loved them. But he didn’t release an album in the ’90s until 1999’s Karma so I never did include him in ANT. Especially since I’d stopped publishing ANT and was writing for national magazines like LiveWire and Lollipop by that point and they wouldn’t have been caught dead covering Rick’s music, sadly. That didn’t stop me from listening and being a fan, though.
Now here’s a funny story: about a month ago my mother said she was offered tickets to Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming show at Mohegan, which was not being advertised as it was to be one of the casino’s invitation-only only shows for select members of their Momentum Club. I said I would go with her and was really looking forward to it. It was only on the actual day of the show when my mother called the arena to ask if she could get a third ticket for my father to attend as well that she realized it wasn’t Springsteen but Springfield. When she told me, as I was getting ready to leave, my eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. Now, like most people, I liked Springsteen’s music, but the only album of his that I truly loved was Born in the USA. Not that I’d heard much of his music in the years that followed, being the heavy metal kid that I was. So, to be honest, I think half the reason I was excited about going was that everyone I told about it was insanely jealous. But, I truly felt like I’d just opened a terrific, unexpected Christmas present when I found out it was actually a Springfield show. I was in disbelief, as it seemed too good to be true.
It was only when Rick hit the stage in Mohegan’s big arena with “Light This Party Up” that my mind finally accepted it and then I was even more jazzed up. At that point, the thing I was in disbelief of was how much sheer energy he had, which I think wowed just everyone in attendance. He might’ve just turned 70, but he was running around the large stage with the gusto of guys 20-years younger than him. Maybe that’s partially due to the fact that he’s in good physical health, but a lot of it had to do with his enthusiasm. And how delighted he looked to be playing to a crowd of at least 8,000. (The arena holds 10,000 if I recall correctly, but they didn’t give out tickets for the seats on the sides of and behind the stage.)
Up next was “I’ve Done Everything For You,” which I always thought was one of Rick’s original songs but was just informed that it’s a Sammy Hagar cover on setlist.fm. To that end, I’m listening to Hagar’s version right now as I write this and I honestly think Rick’s is just as terrific.
To be honest, I’m looking at a setlist from August 17th show at the Heritage Amphitheatre in Edmonton, Canada as I write this because since I wasn’t planning to review the Mohegan show I wasn’t jotting it down. And I do know that his Mohegan set differed slightly because he performed “Souls” at Mohegan, which was a highlight of the show for me, and he did not do that at Heritage. At least not according to setlist.fm.
There are plenty of songs from the Heritage setlist that he definitely did do at Mohegan, such as “Little Demon” from his recent blues album, The Snake King, and top-notch classics like “Affair of the Heart” and “Don’t Talk to Strangers.” He also did the same vibrant medley, “Bop ‘Til You Drop / Bruce / 867-5309/ Jenny / Jessie’s Girl / Don’t Walk Away / Rock of Life / What Kind of Fool Am I.” As you probably know, “867-5309,” which he only did about 10 seconds of, was often thought to be a Springfield song even though it was actually by Tommy Tutone. And “Jessie’s Girl” was only a snippet during the medley as well, just to tease the audience, but was played in full as the final song of the show. In fact, I guesstimate that he played it for a good 15 minutes as the sole encore performance, largely due to having the audience sing back parts of it, which everyone was more than thrilled to do. Of course, people were singing along all night to hits like “Human Touch” and “Love Somebody.” I’d feared that few people in the audience would have remembered those songs, that most people would be there just because they know “Jessie’s Girl,” but that definitely was not the case. I can’t say how much that delighted me, to actually be in the company of other genuine fans of Rick and not a bunch of people who thought he was a one-hit-wonder. (That’s a frustrating mistake a lot of people make these days since that’s the only song radio seems to remember.)
All in all, I had a wonderful time and it was clear from the smile on Rick’s face that he did, too! Now, let’s hope I can get an interview with him!
EDITED TO ADD: I highly recommend Rick’s brutally honest autobiography, Late Late At Night, in which he writes about growing up and his acting as well as his music career, among other things, such as his lifelong battle with depression.