The Midwest Rock ’n Roll Express pulled into Alpharetta tonight, showcasing two of the most successful acts of the 70’s and 80’s (and Ted Nugent).

While locomotive themes are appropriate in the city originally know as Terminus, tonight felt decidedly automotive to me.  After all, Ted Nugent is the “Motor City Madman” and REO Speed Wagon is literally the name of an antique Oldsmobile.  The specific vehicular image that came to mind as I heard each of these bands rock out was that of a 1983 Chevy IROC- Z Camaro, with the t-tops open and a state fair feather roach clip hanging from the rear view mirror.  After all, how many millions got laid in such a teen-aged time machine, with “Keep on Loving You” blaring from the 8 track?

It would be easy to write off this show as a banal trip down memory lane, for fans of tired and disinterested bands just out for one more summer cash grab. Quite frankly, I kind of did going into it.  But I was wrong – dead wrong.  Each act sounded fantastic, and brought great enthusiasm and genuine excitement to performing their hits for the folks who made them millionaires.

Ted Nugent can still shred.  His “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Stranglehold” were as raw and hard charging as the day they rolled off the production line.  His worldview remains perplexing:  “We need to kill more motherf**king a$$holes!” he shouted through a rainstorm.  “Thank you, Georgia.  God bless America – F**k the rest of the world!”

Huh?  Could somebody get Uncle Ted a copy of the London Financial Times and a Xanax please?  He had a few good songs, anyway.

REO Speed Wagon was almost gleeful to play for the nearly packed house.   RSW have had an amazing 13 Top 40 hits and sold over 40 million records since first forming in Champaign, Illinois in 1966.  Crowd favorites like former #1 “Can’t Fight this Feeling,” “Keep on Rolling,” “Time for Me to Fly,” “Take it on the Run” and the aforementioned “Keep on Loving You” sounded as good tonight as they did the first time you heard them coming off fresh vinyl or through your car radio.



The first two LP’s, yes kids, r-e-c-o-r-d-s, that I ever owned were Thriller and Styx’s Kilroy was Here.   I got them each on my 8th birthday.  I loved “Mr. Roboto,” (I still do and have the iTunes receipt to show for it) but my personal relationship with Styx didn’t reach much past that album, as it marked the end of their commercial success as a band.  But like anyone in a pre- Napster/iTunes/Pandora world, I was exposed to Styx through their ubiquitous radio hits like “Renegade,” “Lady,” “Too Much Time On My Hands” and “Come Sail Away,” each of which were featured tonight.  Led by Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung proxy, Lawrence Gowan, Styx nailed every note in a tightly orchestrated (if occasionally cheesy) set.

It’s encouraging to see acts in their  50’s and 60’s bringing it like they did decades ago.  It is definitely not the good old days anymore, but at least for tonight, yesterday didn’t seem so long ago.

Photos © Emily Kelsey 2012