Rick Springfield Plays the Hits
The 64-year-old rocker mixes old favorites with new songs at the Uline Warehouse Stage
At first glance, Rick Springfield would appear to be your average Summerfest free stage headliner: an aged rocker with a handful of hit songs and a career gone lukewarm, attempting to resuscitate the glory days for his nostalgic fans. But the 64-year-old manchild had energy and gimmicks to burn Friday night at the Uline Warehouse stage, where he eagerly played brand new material along with hits like “Jessie’s Girl” and “You Better Love Somebody” to a faithful audience.
Springfield’s catalog is deep with huge, cheesy choruses, and he wasted no time getting to them with openers “Wide Awake” (from new album Songs For The End Of The World) and old favorite “I’ve Done Everything For You.” The highpoint of the set was a 10-minute medley that included “Calling All Girls,” “Don’t Walk Away” and a scintillating snippet of “Jessie’s Girl” that sent the audience into a premature frenzy. The solid slab of hooks testified to Springfield’s knack for arena rock, a talent he hasn’t lost: Even new songs like “Wide Awake” and “Our Ship Is Sinking” sounded as big and catchy as ever, though they still felt like filler in between the more recognizable stuff. The set began to drag when Springfield exchanged his electric guitar for an acoustic for a few slower numbers, like the fluffy new “You And Me” and “My Father’s Chair,” a tribute to Springfield’s late father. But he closed with a solid string of hits: “Don’t Talk To Strangers,” “You Better Love Somebody” and “Jessie’s Girl,” tacking on a few extra choruses for good measure.
Like a true rock star, Springfield has a flare for the dramatic. When he was done using a guitar, he would toss it to a (probably very nervous) offstage tech, who would then throw him a new one. During “Affair Of The Heart,” he hammered on his strings with a bouquet of roses, sending a spray of petals into the audience. His eccentricities made for a few odd moments. One puzzling sequence included a 30-second surf riff, a long, improvised guitar solo and a cover of “Crossroads” – a strange choice for Springfield, who isn’t necessarily known for his guitar skills. Still, his enthusiasm made even the most forced moments – his decension into the audience during “Human Touch,” for example – feel genuine. They were gimmicks, sure; but they were gimmicks that worked.