For those who have been going to see Rick Springfield for years – and trust us, his fans are so dedicated they even required their own documentary – you know what to expect: A run through as much of his catalog as possible (because, yes, even though the perception is that he’s just the “Jessie’s Girl” guy, he’s had 16 other Top 40 hits), some casual chit-chat from Springfield, many flashes of his dimpled grin and the chance to get a whiff of his shampoo when he hops into the crowd and cruises across seat backs during “Human Touch.”
For those few first-timers, though, a Springfield show has to be impressive. The guy is 63, for goodness sake, and not only looks 20 years younger, but still plays, moves and sings like a rangy Australian teenager.
Thursday night’s show at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre might not have been packed (the venue was about half full) and the sound, especially in the first third of the show was unusually echo-y, but Springfield acolytes had to be sated by the 90-minute no-frills show.
With nary a stage prop in sight, Springfield and his four-piece band attacked the opening twofer of “Who Killed Rock and Roll” and “Affair of the Heart” with gusto, Springfield immediately going to his signature move of windmilling clutches of fan-bestowed red roses against his guitar strings.
Clad in a black jacket and gray jeans and T-shirt, Springfield whirled his guitar around his neck during the galloping “Living in Oz” and bopped around the stage during the band’s spot-on cover of Wings’ “Jet,” a song he’s been playing live for years and finally included on his outstanding new album, “Songs for the End of the World” as a bonus track.
That, obviously, is the reason for these tour dates (though he said in a recent interview that he’s already planning a new tour for 2013),and in between the hits came a couple of fresh tracks – the fun, tuneful singalong “I Hate Myself” (“a darker ‘Jessie’s Girl’,” Springfield called it) and the engaging pop-rocker “Our Ship’s Sinking.”
But Springfield, who sounded strong with a hint of rasp to his voice, made sure to cover his bases, putting many of those numerous hits into a medley that included “I Get Excited,” “Bop ‘Til You Drop,” “Calling All Girls,” “Celebrate Youth,” “Don’t Walk Away” and “State of the Heart.”
He also showcased his underrated guitar skills on a cover of “Crossroads,” played on what he called his “steam punk” guitar, a cool-looking dark metallic instrument, and waded into the crowd for his first trip during “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” even pausing to take a sip from a fan’s glass of red wine.
“I’m not driving,” he joked, a reference to his DUI arrest last year (he received a reckless driving plea deal).
The mostly female crowd – though some dutiful male mates were spotted – blissfully shouted along with “Love Somebody” and tripped over each other trying to reach Springfield when he returned to the orchestra pit during “Human Touch.”
He, of course, relished the attention and, as he has throughout his career, took the extra step to make fans feel appreciated by getting close to them and never going through the motions – even on the overplayed “Jessie’s Girl,” which wrapped the set.
But soon Springfield was back with a cover of The Beatles’ perky “Can’t Buy Me Love.” No need to, with this devoted fan base.
“Don’t Talk to Strangers”
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene