Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Rick Springfield concert review: Riverside, Calif.

Many musicians who found widespread fame in the Eighties are content to rest on their laurels.

Not Rick Springfield.

He performs live constantly and puts out new studio albums every few years (the latest, “Rocket Science,” is due in February).

The Aussie pop/rocker has also penned an autobiography and novel (Late, Late at Night; Magnificent Vibration) and continues an active acting career dating back to the 1970s (more recent examples: True Detective, Drop Dead Diva, Ricki & the Flash, Hawaii Five-O, Californication).

Springfield brought his “Stripped” tour to the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside, Calif. on Dec. 19 (a great companion CD/DVD to these sporadic solo acoustic jaunts was released last January via Loud & Proud/Gomer Records).   

The 100-minute concert of songs and stories touched upon selected anecdotes found in Late, Late at Night and for fans, provided a fascinating glimpse behind the music.

Following a brief career montage, Springfield opened the 16-song set with “I Get Excited,” the first of three selections from platinum 1982 LP “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet.” Then some female shrieks began and would continue throughout the night.

If anything, the show shined a brighter spotlight on Springfield’s underrated musical prowess, both on electric and acoustic guitar (blues covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”), not to mention the latest technology.

During various points, he used Band in a Box software alongside a laptop to augment the arrangements to fine effect (the bright harmony-laden take on Badfinger’s “Baby Blue”) and the Pocket Guitar phone app to play another tune (“Inside Sylvia”).

One amazing moment came when a picture of new t-shirt that’s been making the rounds on Facebook emblazoned with the phrase “What if Stacy’s Mom was Jessie’s Girl and Her Number Was 867-5309” was projected on a screen. It refers to Springfield’s signature hit as well as others by Fountains of Wayne and Tommy Tutone. With help from the Box, he deftly performed all three as a mashup. Not easy and really something to behold. The crowd responded wildly.

An emotional segment revolved around Springfield’s tribute to his late father during a medley of “April 24th 1981/My Father’s Chair.” Halfway through, the singer pushed the microphone stand away and did the rest a capella for added impact.

For “Me & Johnny,” Springfield talked about teenage shenanigans with the titular friend; then and now photos of them together shown behind him. A humorous new reggae song about the rotten state of airlines was accompanied by a lyric video.

Before the strident highlight “I’ve Done Everything for You,” Springfield recalled how the song’s writer Sammy Hagar once sent over a bottle of his Cabo Wabo tequila before selling the company. “Love Somebody” and “Affair of the Heart” were other standouts.

Finally, Springfield described the genesis of “Jessie’s Girl” before the audience erupted in a massive call and response singalong. 

There was no encore, but the artist returned for a fan Q&A moderated by the local newspaper’s music critic. Springfield talked about why he changed his stage name from Springthorpe; how soap opera acting is a lot of work and not really rewarding; what it was like to meet idol Paul McCartney and the experience of working and performing live with Dave Grohl, Stevie Nicks, etc. for the “Sound City” project.

All told, this was one of the best shows I’ve seen from Springfield.  

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