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REO Speedwagon to headline Lakes Jam

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For decades Americans have been singing the lyrics of REO Speedwagon’s hit songs, including “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” “Take It on the Run,” “Time For Me to Fly” and “In My Dreams” whether they’re at a wedding reception or listening to the radio while driving down the road.

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Brainerd lakes area residents will get the chance to sing along live with REO Speedwagon, an American rock band from Champaign, Ill., when they perform at 10 p.m. June 29 in the Lakes Jam at Brainerd International Raceway and Resort.

Formed in 1967, REO Speedwagon will be the biggest headliner at Lakes Jam. Most of the other bands performing at the first ever Brainerd music festival have said they’re excited to be playing in the festival with REO Speedwagon. The line-up for the festival includes: June 28, Gwen Sebastian, 6 p.m.; Rocket Club, 8 p.m.; The Kentucky Headhunters, 10 p.m.; June 29, Sena Ehrhardt, 2 p.m.; ThundHerStruck, 4 p.m.; Great White, 6 p.m.; Night Ranger, 8 p.m.; and REO Speedwagon, 10 p.m.

REO Speedwagon has been busy touring this year and will perform in Cohasset, Mass., Saturday; Kettering, Ohio, on Tuesday; Milwaukee, Wis., on June 27; Joliet, Ill., on June 28 and then Brainerd on June 29. Then they will have a short break until their next concert on July 20.

REO took time out of their busy schedule on June 11 to talk to the Brainerd Dispatch. Lead singer Kevin Cronin, who also plays rhythm guitar, was scheduled to do the interview, but was feeling under the weather, so Bruce Hall, bass guitar and vocals, was happy to talk with the Dispatch while the band was set up in a hotel in San Diego waiting for their next concert.

Hall said the band was touring with three other bands but now is touring on their own. Band members with Cronin and Hall are Gary Richrath on lead guitar and vocals; Neal Doughty on keyboards; and Bryan Hitt on drums/percussion.

Hall said the band is excited to come to Brainerd.

“We love Minnesota,” said Hall. “In fact, we played at the (Minnesota) State Fair and we were just in Minnesota not so long ago in Minneapolis. The folks up there are great.

“REO fans will love the show (in the Lakes Jam.) We’ll play all the hits there and we’ve rearranged a song, ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ that we’ll play. We’ll be playing songs from our “Hi Infidelity” record (1980).”

Hall said the band also rearranged the song “That Ain’t Love” and that it’s better than the original version.

Hall said of all the songs the group has sang, his personal favorite is “Time For Me to Fly.”

“This song has always meant a lot to me,” said Hall. “Kevin wrote it about breaking up ... It’s the most powerful song for me and folks like it, too. It can fit into different parts of your life, whether you’re saying goodbye to a situation, a person or bad habits.”

One Twitter follower wanted to know if REO Speedwagon preferred to sing “Can’t Fight This Feeling” or “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” with Pat Benatar.

REO teamed up with Benatar in 2010 for the “Love on the Run Tour,” which brought fans back to the early ‘80s with hits that ruled the Billboard Charts for most of the decade. It was during this tour that REO announced the release of a 30th anniversary deluxe edition reissue of its album “Hi Infidelity.”

Hall initially said he liked singing both songs as it was hard to choose.

“We love ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’, it’s an easy song to play and it means a lot to people and a lot of people use it for weddings and I love that,” said Hall. “But how many people have the opportunity to perform with Pat? I would say I like them both. I can’t choose but if I had to it would be ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ because it’s our song.”

Hall said that even though people don’t see new music out doesn’t mean the band is not doing anything. He said the band is always writing and is busy touring.

“You can’t turn (music) off,” said Hall. “It’s always there. At our shows we are trying to give people the best show. People buy tickets to hear the songs they want to hear ... We give them the hits while at the same time we want to give them something different. We want them to say ‘Wow ... Holy cow REO can rock like crazy.’ I’d say we’re as good now or even better than we were.”

When asked how Hall feels when looking back at all of the band’s accomplishments, he said, “I was 13 when I started learning how to play music and that is all I wanted to do. I feel fortunate to be living the dream. It’s really pretty amazing. People, especially reporters, will ask, ‘Don’t you get tired of singing the same old songs?’ But no, I don’t. I may get tired of traveling, but playing music for the folks is the best. I don’t know what else I could have done (for a career).”

Hall said music is in his blood, as well as all of his brothers and parents. His daughter is a musician in a band called Upshot, which is based in their hometown Champaign, Ill.

Hall said all the band members used to live in California. Today he said he lives in Florida and Doughty actually lives in Austin.

“Yeah, Neal lives in Minnesota,” said Hall. “He fell in love with a beautiful woman there; she’s a school teacher.”

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