Friday Night: Rick Springfield & Spin Doctors At Arena Theatre

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.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero