Atlanta Symphony Hall in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, played host to a unique musical experience Wednesday night as iconic, multi-generational rock star Rick Springfield performed with an announced 64 members from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in support.
Shortly after 8pm, the 72-year-old Grammy Award winning songwriter, musician, actor and best-selling author Springfield youthfully danced his way out from behind the side stage in front of a near-capacity, fan-adoring crowd to join the already-situated orchestra as they started into his familiar 1983 hit, “Affair of the Heart.”
What was remarkable about the start of the evening was my immediate appreciation for the merging of musical sounds between Springfield’s normal full touring band and the orchestra. It was a fresh and unexpected take on his familiar catalog. He recounted early in the set that they came in on Tuesday to collectively rehearse, but he had an expectation that the evening “could potentially turn into a train wreck.” Between his persistent smile and the continued shouting of support from the crowd, it was clear that was not to be the case.
It goes without saying that of course Springfield played his hits like “I’ve Done Everything for You” and “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” while also openly accepting rose bouquets that were tossed to him on stage (which he windmill-smashes on his guitar), but having never seen him perform live before, I was also thoroughly moved by how candid and conversational he was with the audience.
Springfield was a storyteller throughout, touching on being kicked out of school at a young age (11th grade) because “it wasn’t his thing,” before finding his way into Pete Watson‘s band and loving music. He talked about his affection for the Beatles and seeing them live for the first time in Australia in 1964, before performing an emotional cover of “She’s Leaving Home.”
He recalled in detail the inspiration for his song “My Father’s Chair” as a personal reflection upon the loss of his 81-year-old father to cancer in 1991. Springfield had clear memories of his father sitting in a blue leather chair watching cricket – which Springfield jokingly called “baseball on Percocet.” He wrote the song to forward the acceptance of the realization that his dad was never coming back and the chair would sadly forever remain empty.
Following a 20-minute intermission for the orchestra midway through the concert, Springfield (in a wardrobe change) retook the stage to a resounding rendition of his song “Kristina,” followed by “I Get Excited.”
However, perhaps the most moving segment of the night was when Springfield discussed his life-long battle with depression as a lead in to playing the tune “World Start Turning.” He gave an honest depiction on his mental health and therapy journey throughout the ups and downs of his “lucky life.” While a bit tongue-and-cheek about the accolade, it came through that he was clearly proud of receiving the Beatrice Stern Media Award for his work as a mental health advocate in 2018.
With the backdrop of imagery from his career flashing on the large screen hanging above the orchestra, Springfield closed out the night with the popular two-fer of playing “Human Touch” and the always-loved crowd favorite of “Jessie’s Girl.”
It was certainly not a “traditional” rock concert by any means, but it was a wonderful way to experience an institution like Springfield in a different musical setting, one that even he commented might be the last he does with an orchestra while he took his final evening bows.
Rick Springfield Touring Band
Rick Springfield – Vocals/guitar
George Nastos – Lead guitar, backing vocals
Jorge Palacios – Drums, percussion
Tim Gross – Keyboards, guitar, backing vocals
Siggy Sjursen – Bass, backing vocals
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