Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 3:02 am | Fair 57º


Paul Mann: REO Speedwagon Rocks Chumash Casino Resort in Sold-Out Concert

REO Speedwagon brought a guitar-drenched rock show to the Chumash Casino Resort last Thursday.
REO Speedwagon brought a guitar-drenched rock show to the Chumash Casino Resort last Thursday. (L. Paul Mann / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for more photos from the concert.]

The classic American rock band REO Speedwagon brought a thundering guitar-drenched, old-fashioned rock show to an adulate crowd of sold-out fans in Santa Ynez last Thursday night.

The Samala Showroom has been cut in half by a new renovation at the Chumash Casino Resort set to bring a larger smoke-free wing to the resort by next year. But the venue continues to offer the same fantastic in-house light and sound system, along with arena-style live video viewing as it has in the past, all be it for the 600 or so fortunate few who can get tickets for the shows during the next year or so of construction.

The band from Champaign, Ill., along with bands like Kansas and Styx, were the pioneers of hard-rock performances in Midwest America. It was formed in 1967 by original keyboardist Neal Doughty and drummer Alan Gratzer.

Doughty continues as the only founding member of the band, while Gratzer left the group in 1988, although he still makes occasional guest appearances with the band. Gratzer opened a popular restaurant and ran it for a number of years in Santa Barbara, before moving his family to Nevada City in 2001.

In an unpublicized footnote, Gratzer helped organize a mini reunion of the band during their dormant years in the 1990s, to play what was probably the biggest and most expensive wedding gig in Santa Barbara history. Entrepreneur Chris Edgecomb, who made $1 billion in the 1990s telecom bubble, married Maryann Antell in a $7 million (some estimate closer to $11 million) wedding bash featuring a giant tent housing a dual rock stage. Hosted by Jay Leno and David Spade, bands included David Crosby, Michael McDonald, REO Speedwagon, Journey and Rod Stewart and his band straight from a sold-out Hollywood Bowl show. It was the first show in a long while by REO, but in subsequent years the band has returned to a touring schedule more in line with their Midwest work ethic roots.

The current band features Doughty, the most well-known lead singer of the band who joined back in 1972; thundering bassist Bruce Hall, active since 1977; drummer Bryan Hitt; and guitarist extraordinaire Dave Amato, both who joined in 1989.

The band tore four hit singles from their biggest hit album, Hi Infidelity, which sold 10 million copies in 1980, and several other hit songs that the band charted with throughout the mid-1980s. To date, the band has sold 40 million records worldwide. The band also played songs that they penned back in the 1970s that were decidedly more hard rock than their mainstream hits of the '80s.

While the crowd of mostly older music fans were there to hear their mainstream hits, it was in the interim sings where the band showed their true talent as jamming hard rock musicians. The 100-minute set ended in a blaze of hard rock glory with the traditional opening of the front of the stage to a frenzied crowd, a massive 3D light show and a guitar drenched medley of fierce rock music. This veteran band of musicians still knows how to rock with the best of them.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.

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