Saturday, July 11, 2009

Turn It Loose

Yesterday we went down to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk where we belong to have fun and catch the 6:30 performance of the one, the only, Loverboy! Or Lovermen. Or Graying Lovermen in the case of some of them. It was a fairly big crowd that assembled for this free show (there was a second show at 8:30) as they appeared on the Boardwalk for the first time. Even with the cooling weather, there were enough people around to keep the temperature warm and the band perform on a stage set on the beach was awesome.

The set list:

Synth intro - Notorious - Lucky Ones - Take Me To The Top / Riders Of The Storm - I'm Alive - Hot Girls In Love - Turn Me Loose - Working For The Weekend

I saw Loverboy in 1986 and saw they were a band that thrived in a live setting. With all of the surviving original members intact, that has not changed as they plowed through their 45 minute set with gusto. It kicked off with Doug Johnson doing a bit of synthesizer while the announcer welcomed the band as he peeled off a number of swerving licks that sounded like perfect 1981. The brief solo allowed the other band members to take the stage and led into one of only two songs performed to date past 1983, "Notorious".

"Notorious", a barreling jam co-written with Bon Jovi, got the party started and each band member got a brief solo in place of the extended harmonica part on the recorded version. It immediately brought the energy up and established that they have not lost their chops. Drummer Matt Frenette remains a demon on the skins as he pounded through this bar band rocker.

They dipped into some of their arena sized funk for "Lucky Ones", I got a kick out of watching keyboardist Johnson in the verses where all he had to do was press one keyboard periodically to create a splashing woosh sound. Later in the song he whipped out more classic shiny synthesizer cascades recalling those sweaty arenas from their hey day. It was also cool to see the sign language interpreter lady on the side of the stage groove as she signed lyrics like "Every Mother's nightmare, every school boy's dream" or "With a beautiful girl everything's prearranged."

The band went with more from the Get Lucky album by kicking into the slow burning "Take Me To The Top". Lead singer Mike Reno showed that while he has aged, his voice hasn't (or style, dude still wears a headband). His voice still had the youthful edge and elastic range of two decades ago. Guitarist Paul Dean was a live wire throughout the show, changing up riffs and fills from the recorded version to give the band a dirtier feel. And Johnson took advantage of the midsection to show off his saxophone skills as well as a jazzy breakdown on the keys. Then surprisingly the jazz section shifted into part of The Doors "Riders Of The Storm". It played perfectly on the sandy beach with the ocean water lapping on the shore.

With the tempo slowed down Reno introduced a new song, the upbeat "I'm Alive". I thought it was pretty good but needed a slightly stronger chorus to really get people going. Still, Reno was able to work the crowd to get into it.

Displaying their arena rock veteran status, Reno then did the classic divide-the-audience-by-seating-or-gender-shout-out (in this case gender) before kicking into a barn burning "Hot Girls In Love". Paul Dean tore it up on this one as the crowd bounced beach balls adding to the party atmosphere.

While "Turn Me Loose" has been a popular song of theirs, it seems to have become bigger post 80's because it got a huge reaction from the audience. Bassist Ken Sinnaeve dug into the funky bass line as the crowd sang along with the lyrics. Loved the awesome headless bass!

Citing that the Boardwalk wanted to keep their sets shorter than normal, Loverboy drummer Matt Frenette hit the cowbell three times to launch into "Working For The Weekend". Their best known song, the audience (which included me) of course went nuts.

And that was the end of the show. Great pictures courtesy of my wife the Bunny who did a great job, particularly since I mis-identified Paul Dean early on (I didn't know there were two grey haired guys in the band). I've got to give a shout out to Loverboy, at a stage where a lot of bands don't have original members and phone in their performances they stand out. Not only is this group 4/5ths of the originals, they play like a band that enjoys live performance. They interact with the crowd, have full commitment to what they're doing and aren't afraid to rock out. This was part of a great trip we took together to Santa Cruz. If you have a chance to see Loverboy, I definitely recommend it.


Jeannie said...

While I think that the style of their music has become really dated, Loverboy's skill is really as crisp and strong as in their heyday. I think anybody that has ever been a fan of Loverboy or early 80's rock would definitely not be disappointed in seeing the band. I can see Loverboy making a small comeback and I hope they do because they sound ready for it.

Mr. Mike said...

A comeback would be great! Thank you for the pictures honey.

Jeannie said...

I love you so much, honey. Thanks for the wonderful trip.

Kelly said...

Turn It Loose... rockin' blog!

Mr. Mike said...

Thanks Kelly! Your website is awesome!

Frontrow said...

Working for the weekend. Isn't that what we all do? Listening to it now on my computer. Very distinctive start to the song with the 3 cows.....know it anywhere.

Mr. Mike said...

I hadn't thought about that, the three cowbells is really distinctive. One of the best openings to a song ever!