Wednesday’s tour stop at Meijer Gardens with a hefty assist from the Grand Rapids Symphony proved Rick Springfield still has rock-star power as he rolled out his cavalcade of hits. Review, photos.
SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTO GALLERY
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
I was 13 when “Jessie’s Girl” came out, if that tells you anything about my level of devotion to Rick Springfield.
Judging by the ages of many of those assembled at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on Wednesday night for Springfield’s sold-out show, I was not alone.
The teenagers of the ’80s were in full force. Under a gray canopy of clouds, the rocker, joined by the Grand Rapids Symphony, belied his 72 years, jumped around like a way younger guy, and belted out the hits that made him a rock star and a heartthrob.
The orchestra, under the affable direction of conductor Bob Bernhardt, was seamless in its lush accompaniment of Springfield. The rocker complimented Bernhardt and the orchestra several times, saying they were the “very best.”
Springfield was also wowed by the venue with its glass conservatory and luxuriant plants and flowers. “This place is freaking awesome,” the Australian native said, noting that his wife is from Alma, Mich. “They grow great women here.”
After an oddly Disney-esque prelude by the orchestra, the artist kicked off the show with “An Affair of the Heart,” but things didn’t catch fire until his second tune, “I’ve Done Everything for You.” The delighted crowd vigorously sang along, punching out the line, “You’ve done nothing for me!” Yeah, after that, it was all ’80s energy and good vibes.
“Don’t Talk to Strangers” was another crowd pleaser, especially that luscious little French pocket that starts with “Fais l’amour avec moi.” Fans somehow knew all the words. Before the song was over, Springfield brought up a little girl named Sophia in the crowd to sing out the chorus.
It was just one moment where the singer showed a warm and easy rapport with his audience. During the show, he was given several bouquets of roses, which he graciously accepted and then gleefully smashed against his guitar so the petals would go flying everywhere. Later, during “Human Touch,” he waded a few rows into the audience and made his way back up to the stage as fans high-fived him.
“Love is Alright Tonight,” released as single from 1981’s “Working Class Dog,” showcased Springfield’s guitar finesse. He reminded the audience that at that time, disco still reigned, and few artists were playing guitar. “That’s all I knew how to do,” he said, grinning.
“My Father’s Chair” was a tender highlight written in 1981 after his beloved dad’s death and just as “Jessie’s Girl” was finally climbing the charts. The success that eluded him was finally happening, but his dad had died before he could fully enjoy it with him. As the emotional artist performed, photos of his dad and family faded in and out of the big screen behind him, to moving effect.
Another open-hearted moment came when Springfield talked about his lifelong battle with depression and sang “World Start Turning.”
Another bright spot: Springfield singing “Love Somebody” with footage from his acting career, mainly the 1984 movie “Hard to Hold” on the big screens behind him.
But before it became “late, late at night,” Springfield delivered the goods on his monster hit, “Jessie’s Girl.” There was no pretense of an encore, just the admission that he “better sing this one,” and he was right. The place came uncorked as fans danced and hooted and clapped and yelled out the well-worn lyrics.
Forty-some years later, it still hits all the right notes: In this case, notes layered with violins, trombones and cellos.
PHOTO GALLERY: Rick Springfield w/ Grand Rapids Symphony at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Chelsea Whitaker