I spent the majority of my Valentine’s Day with Rick Springfield. I know that many of my friends, single soccer moms who grew up listening to “Jessie’s Girl” on their Walkmans, would have died to be breathing the same air as the Aussie pop god and I gotta admit, it wasn’t a half-bad way to spend Singles Awareness Day.
At about six in the morning the line started gathering outside Parma’s The Exchange store. The concert wasn’t until two that afternoon but the diehards arrived from all over the place. The first woman in line was from Detroit; she got up at 3:00 in the morning and drove straight here to claim her sovereignty over that cold piece of sidewalk. The second fan was from, no kidding, Hampton, Virginia. She made the nine-plus hour drive to see Springfield; truly an affair of the heart.
At about 1:15 a black SUV with a Hard Rock Rocksino wrap pulled up behind the store. While the long line out front was unaware of his presence, the owners of the store, the sound guy, myself, and a few other photographers all mustered into the rented space next to The Exchange for the short concert. At 2:00 the crowd was let in and there was Miss Detroit, all five-foot-two and million watt smiles, beaming at the sight of Rick Springfield on the stage riser less than ten feet away from her.
Ostensibly in support of his new album Rocket Science, which drops this Friday, February 19th, Springfield played a short five song-set; cutting it short because a guitar string snapped mid-song. Apparently, the airline lost his luggage and he had to rent a guitar on the way to the venue. He quickly segued from the rented space adjacent to the Exchange store into the back of the record store to sign the new CD as well as any memorabilia, tattered jeans included, that the 400+ fans awaiting his arrival could muster.
After almost two hours of signing, a chipper Springfield bid the store farewell and left as quickly as he had arrived, presumably back to the airport to retrieve his guitars.
About two hours later I arrived at the Rocksino, trusty earplugs in hand. I was anticipating an onslaught of middle-aged, crows’ feet-laden moms wanting to bring back a little glory of their youth.
I wasn’t disappointed.
A sold-out crowd filled the auditorium to listen to Springfield play a solo show covering the majority of his hits and also giving us all a little insight into coming of age in Australia at the height of the Viet Nam War, which, incidentally, didn’t affect the occidental Oz population. Unless, of course, you’re 17, hired by an American promoter and plopped down in a forward firebase, surrounded by Viet Cong and giant snakes. But, hey, he was playing music and that’s what really mattered.
The stage setting was a laptop, a few stools, several guitars (so I guess the airline came through after all) and a cup of hot tea. It was a stripped down affair, hence the title of the current tour.
I gotta admit…I was impressed by Springfield’s range. As many of his contemporaries, who shall remain nameless so I can continue shooting these shows, have shown…when you’re approaching 70 years on this planet, maybe it’s time to hang up the microphone, whip out that AARP card and settle into your golden years.
Not Springfield. His voice is incredibly strong and shows no signs of a singer resting on his laurels and an audience content to let him slide on the nostalgia value. He even poked a little fun at himself by doing a mashup of “Jessie’s Girl” and Tommy Tutone’s “Jenny.” What could’ve been a Weird Al-style disaster was a cute little trip down memory lane. He also served up a country tune called “If Wishes Were Fishes,” which played on some of our current political and economic problems.
He got serious for a moment and played two songs in memory of his father. Citing his dad as his “biggest fan,” Springfield first played “April 24th, 1981” and then segued into “My Father’s Chair,” both odes to his father whom he clearly loved and still misses. As he finished the second verse of the latter song, he pushed the mic away and bellowed the tune out to the audience. He was visibly choked up from this as were many of the audience members, undoubtedly remembering their own fathers and perhaps a kinship with the singer.
He encored with…what else? “Jessie’s Girl” brought everyone to their feet. A short Q&A session took place afterwards but much of the audience was filing out to get in line for a second autograph session. Hoping, perhaps, that they could live out their long dormant teenage fantasy and stare longingly into Springfield’s eyes and share a breath or two of that same rarified air.
If only for a moment.