Even after more than 40 years of doing it, Kevin Cronin still isn’t sure what to expect when he steps on stage with REO Speedwagon.
When the vocalist and writer behind some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Keep On Loving You” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” performs Sunday, he says it will feel like a gamble — an apt way to put it since the venue is the Seminole Hard Rock Casino.
“Anyone who’s in a rock band will tell you there’s been a number of gambles along the way. You gotta take risks, go into unknown territory and try things that could be a bust. I’ve had some good hands and some bad hands,” Cronin said during a call from his “man room,” a studio converted into a hangout space for him and his 14-year-old twin sons in his Los Angeles home. “Just walking on stage every night is a gamble. What makes me think I can go out in front of 5,000 people and they’ll like it? It still feels like a gamble to me every time.”
For REO Speedwagon, those hits from the ’70s and ’80s have continued paying out for decades. The band continues a nearly constant touring schedule, and Cronin said there’s no plan to slow down.
As for the longevity of REO Speedwagon’s tunes, Cronin says the feelings a song inspires never go away, no matter how many times you hear it. He said it’s especially true for fans who grew up on rock.
“When I hear the opening chords to ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand,’ I get the same feeling now as I did when I was 12. It makes the hair on my arms stand up. ‘Tiny Dancer,’ ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,’ ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again,’ those songs were there when I needed them. Everybody has those songs.”
Cronin said that he particularly enjoys playing Tampa, because his wife’s family lives in nearby Spring Hill. His in-laws own and operate Guido’s Pizza Cafe there.
“I love coming to Tampa. My wife’s family is Italian, and they make great food. When we play Tampa it’s like a big family reunion,” he said. “My guest list might fill up the whole club the night that we play.”