REO Speedwagon Show Only The Strong Survive In Salamanca

Concert Review
REO Speedwagon
Seneca Allegany Event Center
Salamanca, NY
Saturday June 24, 2023
Review/Photos: Joseph Suto


Kevin Cronin and Company returned to the Seneca Allegany Event Center this past Saturday. It was their first time returning since 2015. The band was currently wrapping up the first leg of their summer tour leaving vocalist Kevin Cronin to proclaim that the band was gonna let it all hang out and make it a big party. A party they brought especially for the longtime, diehard fans during their 90-minute set. More on that later.

The band hit the stage with their first lineup change in some 34 years as co-founder Neal Doughty retired from the rigors of touring earlier this year. In his place was keyboardist/organist, Derek Hilland who came highly recommended by none other than Rick Springfield himself. The change marked the bands first since 1989 when drummer Bryan Hitt and guitarist Dave Amato came aboard. A very impressive feat to say the least considering all the changes during the band’s early years which saw Cronin leave for a spell only to return permanently in 1976.

The band came out firing right from the start with traditional opener “Don’t Let Him Go”. The band proceeded to play four songs in all before Cronin would first address the crowd during the introduction of “Live Every Moment”, a song until the past few years had not been a regular part of the set since 1985. I’m not sure if the band decided to slip in the all but forgotten gem “Keep The Fire Burnin” in honor of it’s forty year anniversary or what but it made for a real treat. The show zipped along as Kevin mentioned the great Gary Richrath and one of his big contributions in the intro to “Son Of A Poor Man”. Probably the lone song I could have done without was “Building The Bridge”. Yes it was great see the band play a song I’ve never had the chance to see live but I would have rather heard something like “Say You Love Me Or Say Goodnight”, “Only The Strong Survive” or even “Shakin’ It Loose” which would have really set the stage heading into the homestretch of the show.

Of course what is an REO Speedwagon show without the classic “Back On The Road Again” sung by bassist Bruce Hall who has been in the band since 1977. Hall has been a steadying force and forms a solid rhythm section with drummer Hitt. The additions of Hitt and Amato in 1989 have been the key for the band to maintain their standard of putting on a solid show tour after tour, year after year. They were able to step right in and the band has never looked back.

Cronin fondly reminisced about the western part of NY state and how they accepted the band during their early days. As Cronin sat at the piano he said “this is the song that changed everything for us” as began the notes to the band’s first chart-topper “Keep On Loving You”. He remained at the piano for the closing song of the night, the aptly titled “Roll With The Changes”. If any band has rolled with the many changes over the years it was REO. They slugged it out in the minor leagues for years before striking gold with Hi Infidelity. They survived losing members and always seemed to be left no worse for wear. Sure they haven’t had any hits in years but with their deep catalog and the many hits they had throughout the years they are exactly where they should be at this point in their career. They still put on one of the best live shows from bands of their genre. If you’ve never seen them make it a point to as they are still rocking with authority.

Set List

Don’t Let Him Go
Music Man
Take It on the Run
Keep Pushin’
Live Every Moment
Keep the Fire Burnin’
Tough Guys
That Ain’t Love
Can’t Fight This Feeling
Son of a Poor Man
Building the Bridge
Time for Me to Fly
Back on the Road Again
Ridin’ the Storm Out

Keep On Loving You
Roll With the Changes

About Joseph Suto

Location: Buffalo, NY Photographer/Reviewer
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