REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin has probably been called many things throughout his lengthy career as vocalist for the group, but perhaps “human pogo stick” is an additional title which should be added. Cronin’s energetic and unflagging enthusiasm for the REO mission was evident in the verbally animated conversation that he had with Ultimate Classic Rock about the upcoming ‘Midwest Rock N’ Roll Express’ tour featuring REO Speedwagon, Styx and the inimitable Ted Nugent.

Styx and REO have shared the stage many times, but the addition of ‘Terrible" Ted injects a new element that Cronin is looking forward to. Historically, Nugent left quite an impression when he shared the stage with REO Speedwagon in the ‘70s.

“We opened for Ted in San Francisco and I remember, we played and I had never heard him play live, so I snuck around to the back of the arena and I was as far as you could possibly get from the stage and I opened the door to walk into the room to watch Ted and literally, the sound coming from the stage was so loud that I felt like someone hit me in the face with a frying pan, man. It just nailed me to the wall. I couldn’t even believe it -- his guitar was just like raging.”

“Ted just brings that insane raw crazy screaming energy and I understand Derek St.Holmes is going to be back singing with him this summer, which is a treat, because Derek’s great.”

Although the on-stage combination of Styx and REO Speedwagon is a friendly and familiar one, you can expect that both groups will still be working hard to bring their A-game, a head-to-head competition of sorts that has been going on for decades.

When REO Speedwagon released an expanded edition of their landmark ‘Hi Infidelity’ release last year in celebration of its 30th anniversary, Styx’s Tommy Shaw remembered all too well that the members of his band were definitely paying close attention at the time the album was released.

“Kevin and I go way back, having met right about the time I joined Styx.  There was probably no one more keenly aware of their chart positions than we were for all those weeks back in 1981.”

Cronin says that the competitive spirit, perhaps downgraded these days to a friendly rivalry, still remains intact.

“You know, it’s kind of like if two sports teams get together and they’re both kind of the top teams in their division and when they meet, it’s a special game, that’s how I feel when we play with Styx. We love those guys, but still, we want people to leave the arena humming an REO Speedwagon song. They want people to leave the arena humming a Styx song, but at the same time, it’s a very supportive and friendly atmosphere. “

“We know how good those guys are -- we know that they’re going to come out and bring it every night and they know that about us too. Neither band is comfortable resting on past achievements - both bands are bringing it every night on stage, so just knowing that, we raise the bar on each other every time we play together. When REO Speedwagon and Styx are on tour together, if you’re a fan of either band, it’s a good time to see us, because we’re going to be really motivated to go out there and play 110% per night.”

The opening bell for the tour will sound on May 1 in Hidalgo, Texas and is tentatively set to wrap up on July 8 in Bangor, Maine. Regarding any possible jamming between the three groups, Cronin says that the tour will be a “free-for-all,” making a very intentional Nugent reference and “if anyone wants to come up and join in, we’re into it.”

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