Let’s get something straight: Rick Springfield is not Metallica, not even Bon Jovi, but the man has something inside of him that comes alive in front of an audience. He has an animatedly fun stage presence as he involves his fans in sing-a-longs and goes into the midst of them to be one of them. But there’s something else you may not realize: when he puts his head down to finger out some Hendrix blues, the word respect crosses your mind. He is talented, he is charismatic, he is personable and he knows that for the two hours he has you in his grasp, he is going to give you a night to remember.
Not knowing what to expect from a former teen idol in his early sixties, I was happily won over by everything he gave of himself, musically and personally. Fans showed up prepared, with signs and personalized t-shirts and bouquets of red roses, which he lovingly shredded in Pete Townshend windmills against his guitar, an act that has become a tradition at his concerts. One couple told me they came all the way from Kansas, had planned their vacation around being at this Biloxi show.
With the lights out and an opening short film spanning Springfield’s career playing on the video screens, the crowd was about to pop with excitement. And when he walked on stage in a plain white t-shirt, black jacket and fire-red guitar strapped across his chest, the place started rocking and never let up. From fun songs to spirited covers to some serious guitar licks and drum beats, Springfield and his lively band picked apart any doubts you may have had about his authenticity as a musician and entertainer.
I will start with what I thought was an undiscovered gem about Rick Springfield: his honest talent as a musician. Although his bread & butter was catchy pop tunes, listen closely to his bluesy guitar intro to “Venus In Overdrive” and his smoking interpretation of the Hendrix classic “Red House”. Absolute breath-taking moments in an oeuvre of happy-go-lucky, shaking your hips, good time hits, ala some with more serious lyrical intonations.
Another big plus about Rick Springfield is his personality. During “Don’t Talk To Strangers”, he held a microphone down for fans to sing into, for better or worse, causing plenty of laugh out loud moments. And when he brought two very young fans, ages eight and nine and both in Springfield t-shirts, onto the stage, it was genuinely appealing as they sang and danced with the Australian native. During “Human Touch”, he stood on the rail as fans held his legs to support him, before he launched amongst them to give them a real human touch experience. Once in the middle of them all, he had them jumping and waving their arms and singing at the top of their lungs. Good old-fashioned family fun.
More highlighted songs: “Rock Of Life” with a spicy George Bernhardt guitar solo and Rodger Carter pounding on drums, was a killer song. “Calling All Girls” during the medley segment, had pulsing Matt Bissonette bass lines mixing in with Derek Hilland’s keyboards. “Venus In Overdrive”, “Living In Oz”, “What’s Victoria’s Secret”, “I’ve Done Everything For You”, and the aforementioned “Red House” and “Don’t Talk To Strangers” were all exciting.
So in conclusion, I assure you that if you see a poster announcing that Rick Springfield is coming to your town, do not snicker and walk on by. SETLIST
: Who Killed Rock & Roll, Affair Of The Heart, Living In Oz, Jet, What’s Victoria’s Secret, I Get Excited, Medley (Bop Till You Drop, Celebrate Youth, Calling All Girls, Don’t Walk Away, State Of The Heart, What Kind Of Fool Am I), I’ve Done Everything For You, Venus In Overdrive, Rock Of Life, Love Is Alright Tonight, Red House, Don’t Talk To Strangers, Love Somebody, Human Touch, Jessie’s Girl. ENCORE: Wasted, Kristina.