While personal relations between the United States and Canada are at an all-time low, and there’s a lot of talk about who can and can’t cross borders, American classic rock fans could probably come to a consensus on this immigration policy: Let Loverboy in whenever they want!
The group that got its start in Calgary, Alberta, in 1979 has certainly racked up a lot of U.S. chart hits, buoyed by their videos constant rotation on MTV: “Turn Me Loose,” “Lovin’ Every Minute of It,” “Lucky Ones,” “Hot Girls in Love,” “When It’s Over,” and of course, that anthem for collars blue, white, and all shades in between, “Working for the Weekend.”
A hallmark of Loverboy’s music has always been positive lyrics, high energy, and a capacity for singalongs. Singer Mike Reno says all of those aspects came in particularly handy during their previous gig before this interview.
“Our very last show was in Redding, California, where they are going through the most devastating forest fires the country has ever seen, and we wondered if they were going to cancel the show,” Reno says. “But we realized that these people really needed some fun. They had lost their homes and businesses, and when we played, they just went crazy. You could sense a relief and a letting go.”
Undoubtedly, “Working for the Weekend” was a show high point, as it is for most Loverboy shows (and, of course, the song of choice for auditioning Chippendale’s dancers…or at least those on “Saturday Night Live.”).
It’s become the band’s anthem, and Reno is credited with one crucial change. When guitarist Paul Dean originally brought the song to the group, it was called “Waiting for the Weekend.” Reno’s one-word adjustment made all the difference.
“I changed it around, and Paul thought it was perfect!” he laughs. “That was a fun moment. ‘Working’ was not only a big song, but a big video. And it gave radio programmers a sort of cowbell start to the weekend. They really jumped on it, and they still play it every Friday at 5 p.m. all around the world. The huge success of it really surprised the heck out of us.”
Unlike a lot of bands of its era, Loverboy still has most of its original and classic lineup onstage: Reno, Dean, drummer Matt Frenette, and keyboardist/saxophonist Doug Johnson. Bassist Scott Smith died tragically in a 2000 sailing accident near San Francisco, when he was swept overboard by a huge wave. His body was never recovered.
“We weren’t ready for that accident that happened. It still hurts to talk about it, but we play in memory of Scott,” Reno says. “We give solace to each other knowing that he was doing what he loved—sailing—and that’s how he went out. We miss him nearly. But the ‘new’ bass player [Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve] has been with us for nearly 20 years!”
Going back even further, of course, are all those MTV videos. Most bands of the era have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with those permanent visual time capsules. While they certainly did quite a bit put a band’s name and music into millions of households they might not otherwise reach, it’s often images of those same videos that come immediately into a listener’s head when the song is heard today. With no mercy for editing out dated fashion, props, or looks.
“I have a good chuckle when I see them. But we recorded most of them in our early twenties. Forty years on, people don’t generally look the same. People change,” Reno offers. “But some people want us to not change, and to look and act the same way we did in our videos. I think that’s a little odd. They don’t worry about how they look, but they expect us to! I mean ‘how you noticed the change in yourself sir?’ But we laugh at them, and we like them.”
As for new music, the last Loverboy studio album came out in 2014. But Reno doesn’t see putting out a new one as a realistic possibility. That’s given the economics and a listening climate today that not only doesn’t embrace new music from older bands, but looks askew at even the idea of paying to own music. The band instead chooses to record an occasional new song and put it out on their website, for free.
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Reno says he has a lot of fond memories of Houston and playing the Summit over the years, and sharing bills with bands like Molly Hatchett, .38 Special, and a particular Reno favorite, ZZ Top. “Texas in itself has a history of being a great rock and roll state,” he says. “We love Texas. Texas rocks!
For this stop in Houston, Reno says he might have to do a “little square dancing” on the stage at the Dosey Doe. And the smaller-than-they’re-used-to stage won’t faze the band.
“It’s more personal, you really can feel the intimacy with the crowd, and it’s good to play all sizes of venues,” he sums up. “We do all the hits and enjoy getting the audience riled up and involved. The energy is still with us, and that’s what makes it fun for me. The other day, I heard ‘The Kid is Hot Tonite’ on the radio, and I turned it up! It still sounds good coming out of the speakers.”
Loverboy plays August 31, 8:30 p.m., at the Dosey Doe Big Barn, 25911 I-45 North. $158-$218 includes dinner, served 6:30-7:30 p.m. Call 281-367-3774 or visit DoseyDoe.com. For more on Loverboy visit LoverboyBand.com