There was nothing cold on these ski slopes about Friday night’s performance at the Buck Hill Ski Resort’s Concert Series. Usually, this ski resort is packed with snow bunnies, skiers, and tubers, however, several nights a year the ski resort puts on a great two-day concert production called Buck Hill Concert Series. Many famous acts have graced the stage of these slopes including Lou Graham, Loverboy, Starship, and many more. The weather could have not been more perfect for the concert. The night began in the mid-’80s and ended with a jacket-wearing low temperature around 70 degrees.
Night one opened with a local favorite, Bad Girlfriends. Don’t let the bad in the name fool you. This band performs a mix of classic and current rock, country, and pop music. Described as a step out of the normal cover band realm, this female-fronted band brings talent, skill, and high energy to the stage. Even though this was my first time catching the group, I was impressed with the high energy performance. Lead singer Deb Zeman performed with powerhouse vocals. The set featured songs from Journey, Pink, Guns N Roses, Queen, AC/DC, Tran Siberian Orchestra, and more. Bass and fiddle player Laurie Donnelly lit the stage on fire with her rendition of “Devil Went Down to Georgia”. Husband and fellow bandmate Thomas Donnelly showed support by bringing out his multi-talented skills of vocals, guitar, bass, and harmonica. Not to be outdone, Suzanna Kennedy brought to the table mad harmony on vocals and surprised the audience with her frenzied skills on keys and guitar. Lead guitarist Peter Cincoski provided strong melodies, riffs with a sound structure and is a jack of all trades in the band. Last but certainly not least is Tom Conners. His drums and vocals were able to transition from genre to genre without missing a beat.
I don’t think Buck Hill and its patrons were truly ready for the headliner of the night, Australian-born singer, songwriter, author, and actor Rick Springfield. Looking suave and dressed in all black he commanded the stage when the lights came on. Just one month younger than my own mother, at age 72, Rick Springfield is still rocking like he’s 22. Though his voice is not as pristine as it was in his 20’s or 30’s, he still sounds pretty damn good! But if you ask most of the 2500 concertgoers last night, many of them female fans, you will probably get the same answer, “Rick sounds absolutely amazing” and “he is hot”. Performing many of his top hits, including No. 1 hit, “Jessie’s Girl”, the lineup included a mash-up of his songs “Affair of the Heart” and “Love Somebody”. I admit I am a Rick Springfield fan since the ’80s. I remember singing to his top hits in the car and how those soundtracks were a part of my youth. Though most of the songs played were from the 1980s, he incorporated some of his newer work, “The Voodoo House” from his 2018 album called The Snake King. The Snake King is a departure from his poppy, bubblegum sounds of yesteryear and includes a darker, deeper sound.
I lost count of the guitar changes after a while, but I don’t think the crowd noticed. After each song, there came a wave of screams from the audience and a myriad of “I Love You Rick!” from the crowd. If you are a regular attendee of a Rick Springfield concert, you will all always see dozens of roses scattered across the stage. Part of his performance is to take the roses, strum his guitar and cause the petals and stems to fly across the stage. There were numerous fans in the audience waiting to gift him with more, including Terri Ojala, who gave him a dozen roses. Immediately, he destroyed her gift on his Schecter guitar to the absolute delight of the audience. I chuckled watching the giddiness of the women in the crowd and the men standing doe-eyed as to why they were so happy about this destruction of a $75.00 bouquet of long-stem roses. Ok men, just go with it, it is what it is.
A little history about Rick’s band. His band has been with him for many years, and they mesh well together. His lead guitar player George Nastos, started out as his guitar tech for several years and took over as bass player after Matt Bissonette left in 2012 to tour with Elton John. Once guitarist George Benhardt left the band in 2015, Nastos took over the lead guitar position. I had a conversation with him backstage on how things were going for the band and himself personally. Nastos stated things were going better, but the pandemic has put a damper on touring. He added that the pandemic had really impacted the mental health of a lot of people. He just had hip surgery so I can only assume the downtime has helped him heal quicker than being on the road constantly. Another band member that has been with Rick since 2015 is keyboardist and guitarist Tim Gross. This classically trained child pianist started filling in for former band member Paul Trudeau after scheduling conflicts. He provides backing vocals for the band as well. A constant in the band since 2013 is drummer Jorge Palacious, the replacement of former drummer Rodger Carter. A band favorite for the crowd is bass player Sigve (Siggy) Sjogren. This Norwegian-born bassist joined the band in 2015. Previously touring with Glen Campbell, he is an amazing addition to the band. For those that can take their eyes off Rick, they are drawn to his constant movement from one side of the stage to the other with his never-ending smile and playful antics. As I spoke with him briefly backstage, I was amazed at the energy he still had after several hours of playing.
Speaking with several fans, there is no short of love for the singer. I met a couple of sisters that have been following the former General Hospital star for decades. I tried to get their names but honestly, because of the excitement, it was pointless by the end of the conversation. The most important part of speaking with them as they were there celebrating not only Rick but also their mother who passed away and supported their love for the rockstar. Twenty-two years ago at Rockfest in Wisconsin, they had VIP tickets to meet him and took a photo with him. So, fast-forward to twelve years ago, their mom had t-shirts made of the photo for each of them and they wore them in which he signed each of them. Not only did they speak to him about his music, but their common bond of depression. The bond that they feel to the singer has brought these sisters together and tonight I could see how the singer has moved them in their lives.
Another fan I spoke with was Cindy Morton who has been a fan since she was 4 years old. She first found one of his recordings in her parent’s blue record box containing lots of 45 records. The first song she ever heard was his 1972 recording “What Would the Children Think”. She remembers the song telling a story about the break of a family and how children face the pain of their parent’s divorce. Even as a young girl, she was able to hear his deep emotions in the song. She said “That the song was a deep comfort for her when her parents got divorced. One day as she looking out the window, remembering her mother leaving the family, the song came to mind letting her know she was not alone.
The first time she was the man on the record was in 1972 on Sonny and Cher’s show. A year later, she remembers seeing him as the hero in the cartoon Mission Magic. (She said she does not think that was one of his finer moments.) For a while, Rick disappears, but then makes another appearance on American Band Stand and Wonder Woman in 1976. Again he seems to fade out into the mainstream, but in 1981, he hit it big with “Jesse’s Girl”. She remembers watching Solid Gold when he appeared on the show, she was hooked! Cindy’s affair of heart does not end with her love of his music. She religiously watched General Hospital in middle school and would rush home to watch the show. After each episode, she would call her friends about the show. Although she would listen to his music and watch his made for television movies, her first concert was not until 2016. For her, life and time often got in the way of going to see him over the years. She said she, her husband, and 2o-something-year-old kids would go back in a heartbeat to see him. She even converted a few family members and now they are lifelong fans now. She has read his book Late Late at Night. In his book, Rick speaks candidly about his depression, which can relate to that. She feels that his message is one that one can be at the very top of everything but that still will not bring you joy. The joy comes from you, not things. To this day, she gets the same girlish pleasure when she listens to him on the radio as she did when she was 14. “His music takes you to a positive and uplifting place, especially in the world in which we live”. Cindy believes that his desire is to bring comfort to others.
Whatever you think of Rick Springfield, whether he is too bubble gum, too old or not your thing, there are plenty of fans out there that will tell you he is exactly what they need and love. He has borne his soul through his book and his music and continues to tour because his fans give him the joy that he is seeking.
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