Generally speaking, there are two sides to Rick Springfield that can come out at any given concert. On one hand, there’s the audience serenading General Hospital heartthrob who’s the fantasy of countless ‘80s ladies, but on the other, there’s the rock n’ roller who’s just as capable of covering Sammy Hagar as he is collaborating with Dave Grohl and several Foo Fighters on the recent Sound City: Reel To Reel soundtrack. Surprisingly, both of those seemingly divergent personalities were put on hold during his latest tour following 2012’s Songs For The End Of The World, which instead applied a completely “stripped down” aspect to his repertoire.
Setting up shop at the intimate and stylish City Winery was the right call for this rare solo set and the die-hards came in droves, selling out both shows practically from the get go. During his second engagement at the Chicago location of the burgeoning chain, Springfield definitely delivered most of the major hits (except “Human Touch”), but also dug deep in the corners of a career that actually dates back long before his pin-up days to the early ‘70s.
Now 64, the Australia native looked fit and trim, while his voice sounded just like he did on record throughout the spontaneous evening of stories and songs (perhaps most akin to Bryan Adams’ acoustic outings as of late). Armed with only an acoustic guitar, “I Get Excited” and “Affair Of The Heart” were framed in a more organic light than the highly produced studio affairs, though as Springfield strapped on an electric for “Me & Johnny,” it was evident he could still get everyone revved up in a bare bones environment.
Across the next 90 minutes, the headliner did almost as much sharing as he did singing, telling tales like performing in Vietnam during the war, dabbling in a shady blues band or getting high with Todd Rundgren after a songwriting session that never yielded anything. He also talked about how arguments have often inspired his best lyrics before “Honeymoon In Beirut,” admitted to sexual jealousy prior to “Don’t Talk To Strangers” and recalled memories of his departed dad alongside “April 24, 1981/My Father’s Chair.”
While Springfield’s wit and candor were certainly welcome, several songs were accompanied by what he called a “band in a box,” which was basically pre-recorded instrumentation triggered from his laptop. Though it definitely added some muscle to the breakdown of “Jessie’s Girl,” most of the time it detracted from the show’s otherwise sparse vibe and begged the question of why he didn’t just bring the whole band in the first place considering so many additional parts were featured?
Perhaps the resolution to go at it alone was best accounted for when Springfield skipped a traditional encore all together and opted for a Q&A with the crowd, in essence, making the wall between the seats and the stage completely disappear. As a concept, it was quite a generous gesture from a star who sold 25 million records, but when several fans took the topics to groupie-like levels (such as “Rick, what are you doing later tonight?”), it proved utterly ridiculous. Nonetheless, the singer took it all in stride like a true pro, kindly deflecting the craziest questions and even honoring a few brief requests (including the ultra-early favorites “Speak To The Sky” and “Take A Hand”). Those selections alone proved that in spite of the few questionable show sculpting decisions, the night as a whole achieved its purpose of revealing several unseen sides of Springfield beyond just the most obvious oldies.
- (photos and review) Andy Argyrakis
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