REO Speedwagon singer Kevin Cronin knew what he needed to do when he heard his neighbor, Eddie Money, died—play “Two Tickets to Paradise” at his next show.
“Whenever there was a charity concert or benefit, people would call Eddie,” Cronin says.
“When the Borderline Bar & Grill shooting happened in Thousand Oaks (California), we immediately put together back-to-back benefit concerts, and called people in the area affected by it.”
The “next show” was KAABOO in San Diego and Cronin was amazed by the audience’s reaction.
“We knew the song because we backed up Eddie at the Borderline shows,” Cronin said. “I sang it this time and there were probably 20,000 people in front of us singing when we did it. The love for Eddie was just incredible. It felt so good to honor him in that way. I wish he could have been there to hear the chant, ‘Eddie! Eddie!’”
Cronin says the band may play “Two Tickets to Paradise” when REO Speedwagon hits the Mesa Amphitheatre stage on Wednesday, October 16.
“Eddie was just a unique character,” Cronin says. “When he walked into the room, he was just talking—nonstop. He reminded me of my mom, rest her soul. He was the type of person who walks in a room and makes everyone feel comfortable and happy. My mom was the same way. They’re very special.”
At the Mesa Amphitheatre, Cronin says REO Speedwagon must play about 10 hits or “an angry mob will be waiting for us at the tour bus.”
“Fortunately for us, we enjoy playing them,” Cronin adds with a laugh.
“For the rest of the set, this year, we have a little acoustic thing. That’s my background before I joined the band. I lived in Chicago and it had this rich scene of cool clubs that had a coffeehouse vibe. They were all around the north side of Chicago.”
Cronin used those acoustic gigs to try new material. The scene was supportive, carrying a “really wonderful vibe.” He says he became a “rock ‘n’ roll singer” when he joined REO Speedwagon.
“My roots are still with an acoustic guitar and a microphone,” he says. “So I take a little segment of our show to do that.”
The band is also going to dig deep into “Hi Infidelity,” including his favorite song, “I Wish You Were There.”
“It’s a challenge vocally, but it’s just one of those songs,” says Cronin, who is writing an autobiography. “I look forward to it every night. It pushes me and forces me to dig deep as a singer, which I love. The band just nails it.
“The guitar part for that song is so crucial. I never wrote a chorus for that song. The lead guitar part when we were working up the song in 1980 is so evocative. Gary said more with those notes, this ascending guitar part he played, I didn’t need to write a chorus. Everything I felt he was expressing with the guitar part. It’s a special song and fun to play.”
In two years, REO Speedwagon will celebrate 40 years of “Hi Infidelity,” and Cronin is “psyched” about it.
“That record was so pivotal for us,” he says. “It was a mind-boggling experience that we went through. Very few people get to experience that. It was just so amazing and now we’re putting together a big tour. We’re going to blow it out in style.”
REO Speedwagon w/The FranCosmo Band and The Bellwethers
Mesa Amphitheatre, 263 N. Center Street, Mesa, 480.644.2560, mesaamp.com, 6 p.m. Wednesday, October 16, tickets start at $35.