REVIEW: The Tubes and Loverboy in Concert – January 25, 2020 at the Genesee Theatre, Waukegan, IL
Review and photos by Jim Zons
The other week, for some reason, I was on a bit of a Loverboy kick, listening to a bunch of their 80s hits on YouTube, when I wondered: are they touring anywhere close by this month?? Checking the schedule, the closest venue appeared to be in Waukegan, IL, and when I saw the opening act was The Tubes, I was all in for a road trip to Waukegan!
First of all, let’s talk about the venue. The Genesee Theatre was originally constructed in the late 1920s as the premier entertainment destination in downtown Waukegan. After sitting vacant through most of the 1990s, the city of Waukegan purchased the building and began a multi-million dollar renovation, completed in 2004. Today, the 2403 seat Genesee Theatre is once again a showpiece for downtown Waukegan and is an incredible place to see a concert, in this case, The Tubes and Loverboy!
The first time I saw The Tubes in concert was back in 1982, coming just off the success of their album “The Completion Backward Principle.” I was impressed with how theatrical they were back then; each song featuring costume changes and even backdrop changes … almost like watching a music video live! I had heard the band had gone their separate ways in the 1990s and hadn’t toured in forever, so I was quite surprised to see them opening for Loverboy at the Genesee Theatre!
The current touring lineup features original members Fee Waybill, Roger Steen, Prairie Prince and Rick Anderson, and “newcomer” (in 1996) Dave Medd. The set started with the band coming out in the dark, taking selfies, all wearing suits, until Waybill strode out in an all white tux (it was blinding!) He began the performance by stating the opening monologue from the Completion Backward Principle album (“As I mentioned at the close of the last record, this record you are now playing is another example of the Completion Backward Principle …”) before going right into the first song from the album, the AOR staple “Talk to Ya Later.” They then went through the entire album, start to finish, in its entirety … what a treat! While it wasn’t quite the theatrical flourish of the Tubes of yesteryear, each song did feature at least somewhat of a costume change by Waybill: a kimono and swim goggles for “Sushi Girl,” a wife beater shirt with a pack of smokes rolled up in the sleeve for “Mr Hate,” and more minor costume changes.) Waybill’s voice seemed a little rough at the start of the set, but settled down and sounded great through most of the evening, even on songs like “Don’t Want To Wait Anymore” which he didn’t even sing on the original recording. There were definitely some Tubes fans in the house, with plenty of people singing along with “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” and “Let’s Make Some Noise.” Of course, no Tubes concert would be complete without two of their biggest hits, which weren’t on the Completion Backward Principle: 1975’s “White Punks on Dope” for which Waybill came out sporting a feather boa, big blonde wig and two foot high (!!!) platform shoes, and of course the evening’s encore, 1983’s top ten hit “She’s a Beauty”. The band looked like they were genuinely having a good time; hopefully that means more tour dates in the future from The Tubes.
After a short break, it was time for Loverboy to take the stage. I love these guys! I’ve seen them in concert probably close to ten times and it never gets boring! Loverboy features original founding musicians Doug Johnson on keys, guitarist Paul Dean, drummer Matt Frenette and lead singer Mike Reno, along with bassist Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve, who replaced original bass player Scott Smith who died in 2000 during a boating accident. Their setlist doesn’t changes too much from concert to concert, so expect to be transported back to the 1980s from their first song to the last! Like I mentioned earlier, my whole reason for attending this concert was because I had been binging on a bunch of Loverboy videos, so it’s always a bit jarring to see how different everyone looks 30 years later, especially Mike Reno! Even though they look different, they still sound incredible, and I am always amazed at how Reno can still hit those high notes! The hit parade started with the very first song, “Notorious,” then “Lucky Ones” and “Queen of the Broken Hearts.” “Take Me To the Top” actually featured a bit of the Doors “Riders on the Storm” in it, spotlighting keyboardist Doug Johnson. What struck me about this particular Loverboy performance is that there was a lot more interaction with the audience from Mike Reno; made the show feel looser, lighter, more playful. In past shows, there tends to be almost no interaction with the audience, so something was definitely different tonight. The audience loved it; they were on their feet dancing and singing along with chart toppers like “The Kid is Hot Tonight,” “When It’s Over,” “Hot Girls In Love” and more. Loverboy finished their main set with a couple of their biggest 1980s hits: “Turn Me Loose,” and classic rock favorite “Working for the Weekend” and then after the obligatory walk off the stage, they ended the evening during their encore with an extended version of “Lovin’ Every Minute of It.”
I don’t know if anyone will ever get a chance to see these two bands perform on the same stage for a single night of rock and roll again … so whoever made the decision to pair The Tubes and Loverboy together for a cold January evening in Waukegan, Illinois, I thank you!