Friday Night: Rick Springfield & Spin Doctors At Arena Theatre

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Rick Springfield, Spin Doctors Arena Theatre May 27, 2011

Looking around at the Arena Theatre audience Friday - heavily populated by forty- and fiftysomething women on a little Girls Night Out - it would be easy to dismiss them as estrogen bombs just waiting to detonate upon the arrival of Dreamboat Dr. Drake, thus rendering the actual quality of the concert superfluous.

But to do so would not only be unfair, but a flat-out mistake. Because while Rick Springfield may have only pretended to be a doctor, his role as a rocker here required absolutely no play-acting.

Any thoughts that he is not a credible artist or is merely an '80s relic were dismantled song by song, as the vocalist/guitarist and a crack four-piece band plowed fast and loud through a catalogue that spanned both older material like "I've Done Everything For You," "I Get Excited," "Living in Oz," and "You Better Love Somebody" alongside newer cuts like "What's Victoria's Secret?" and "Venus in Overdrive."

What they shared in common is that most sounded edgier and more contemporary live than their sometimes dated studio counterparts. A singalong cover of Them's "Gloria" with some goofily overwrought narration was also a pleasant surprise.

Springfield clearly has a connection with his diehard fans - the ones who own the Karma CD or devoured his memoir Late, Late at Night.

"He's really personable, and I relate to the power of his music," said fan Kymm Martin.

And he clearly has fun, whether it's shredding proffered bouquets of roses with windmill-style strokes, sending petals all over the stage (an expected show staple, which makes for a pretty cool visual), or pressing the flesh deep in the seats during "Human Touch."

He even let a young boy (who had come prepared with his own guitar) onstage to take some licks on "Don't Talk to Strangers" to Springfield's and the audience's delight. That's why is it was so surprising he spoke so little, preferring to ram home one song after another in a wave of urgency that sometimes made the pacing seemed rushed.

As expected, the place blew up during main set finale "Jessie's Girl," but it came almost as a surprise since the show had nearly no lulls to leave people wondering when he'd get to THE SONG.

At 61, the guy is still clearly a workhorse and in better shape than most men half his age - as the shirtless encore segment proved. Wherever she is, Jessie's Girl is probably having second thoughts these days about her previous choice in men.

Opening the show were the Spin Doctors, whose all-original members delivered a solid, fun, and funky romp of their hits ("Little Miss Can't Be Wrong," "Two Princes," "Jimmy Olsen's Blues"), jams ("What Time Is It?") and even a ballad ("How Can You Want Him When You Know You Can Have Me?").

Vocalist Chris Barron may have looked like a bearded accountant at a suburban backyard barbecue, but the wry glint in his eye and frequent inhumanely high kicks were extensions of his infectious joy. Bassist Mark White and drummer Aaron Comess pistoned the band's rhythm engine along, and guitarist Eric Schenkman played some searing licks.

Underappreciated in their time, the Spin Doctors hope to find new life with more frequent touring, some to support the 20th anniversary of their debut, set to be re-released with bonus tracks and video footage.

Personal Bias: Longtime Spin Doctors fan, but cautiously optimistic about Rick. Was also accompanied by Mrs. Aftermath who, at age 13, dreamed of becoming Mrs. Springfield instead.

Overheard at the Men's Room Urinal: "My wife said if I took her to this tonight, I could go fishing tomorrow."

Random Notebook Dump: iDiots trying to record entries shows on their iPhones have now given way to bigger iDiots trying to record entire shows on their iPads.

Special Shout-Out: To excited nearby seatmate Deborah Schmidt, at the show to celebrate the big 5-0 with her three sisters (Christi Sabin, Tammy Sigler and Paula Woodyard) and daughter Jessica.

"I saw him in 1983 here in Houston, and our father, who is a preacher, actually told us about this show," Schmidt laughed. "Even if he did call him Rick Springsteen." Schmidt added that she likes the beat of his music, as well as his eyes. "Don't forget about his LIPS," Sigler added. "They're good too!"

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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