Sep 6, 2012

They came from the 70s (and 80s)

Classic rock revived at the 2012 Illinois State Fair grandstand

Not long ago I looked back at the 2012 Illinois State Fair, but I didn’t cover the unusually strong grandstand line-up they featured this year.  From Miranda Lambert and Eric Church to Creed and Train, there seemed to be something for most musical tastes.  Still, imagine my surprise when not one, but two, nights were booked for an old-school arena rocker like me in mind.

Perhaps the most interesting booking on paper for the fair was Friday, Aug. 17 – a four-bill of Georgia Satellites, Blue Oyster Cult, Night Ranger and Cheap Trick – and admission on the track (closest to the stage) for just $30.  Think about that … that’s $7.50 per band.  And we sometimes pay a $5 cover in Springfield on weekends to hear crappy cover bands (ok, most aren’t really crappy, but you get the point). 

Georgia Satellites
The Georgia Satellites opened with a clean, concise 45-minute set in which they crammed everything you’d expect to hear from them.  For instance, I was happy to hear “Battleship Chains” early in the set; it’s a song most people have probably long forgotten, but I think it’s one of their best. 

About half of their set consisted of covers, some of which they had famously done (“Hippy Hippy Shake” closed their show), and of course the crowd – albeit still small at 5:45 p.m. – predictably sang along to “Keep Your Hands To Yourself.”  All in all, it was a fun opener, in part because you could tell the band was genuinely having fun, too.   

Blue Oyster Cult
Second on the ticket was Blue Oyster Cult, who played for about an hour.  I had seen them several years earlier at a much smaller venue – the Sangamon County Fair in New Berlin, Ill. – so I will admit to not having a vested interest in this.  Again, if you were a fan, you would not have been disappointed.  They sounded very well and got the crowd involved with “Godzilla” and “Don’t Fear the Reaper” as you’d expect.  I took the opportunity to chat with friends and contemplate how bad an actual blue oyster would taste.

According to the banner, this must be Night Ranger
For my money, Night Ranger, surprisingly, put on the best show of the … umm … night.  And I say that without even being swayed by friends who knew the band and got to see the entire concert stage-side.  One advantage of this – I got a cell phone picture preview of the set list, so maybe it helped that I knew it was going to be a good show in advance.

One obvious highlight of the show was “Sister Christian,” a song which everyone who grew up in the 1980s knows calls for a flick of the lighter …

Other moments I enjoyed included their rendition of “Coming of Age,” which reminded the audience of lead singer Jack Blades’ days with the Damn Yankees; and “Crazy Train” in recognition of guitarist Brad Gillis’ stint playing for Ozzy Osbourne.     

A swarming crowd loves Cheap Trick
Cheap Trick headlined and closed the Friday night show.  To be fair, I’ve never been a huge fan, but they have a very strong following in Central Illinois, partly because they’re from just up the road in Rockford. 

If you were a Cheap Trick fan, you probably had a great time.  While they had a renaissance in the late 1980s, most of their set list was pulled from their earlier, less-popified era in the 1970s.  And even I was getting into some of their most familiar songs from that era (e.g., “Surrender,” “I Want You To Want Me”).  I do have to question, though, if these guys aren’t getting a little long in the tooth to be wearing their traditional stage outfits. 

I also have to admit that Rick Nielsen’s five-neck guitar is pretty damn cool. 

So, yep, four distinct bands for $30.  It was a minor marathon standing on the track for almost six hours, but you were definitely entertained for the evening. 

Looks like I’ll have to cover the closing night of the fair and the Steve Miller Band concert from that night in another entry.  Until then …  

No comments:

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...