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Concert Reviews:
Solo show lets Rick Springfield reach outside the box at SoundBoard

21st Century Media/Digital First Media, @GraffonMu

Posted: Friday, December 6, 2013

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DETROIT -- The screaming tweens that populate One Direction and Justin Bieber concerts these days have nothing on their moms.

That we learned on Thursday night, Dec. 6, when Rick Springfield played at the Motor City Casino Hotel's Soundboard. The tweens of the early 80s, when the Australian-born singer and songwriter was a post-"General Hospital," "Jessie's Girl" heartthrob, are the adults of today, but they had no trouble channeling that long-ago part of themselves throughout Springfield's two-hour show.

And it was perhaps even more evident during the quietest Springfield concert ever.

This time out he's playing alone, offering up a "Storytellers" style show featuring just his voice, his guitar and a "band in a box" -- a laptop loaded with other musical parts Springfield recorded to accompany himself at select times during the show. It could have been a gimmick but was mostly a comfortable fit, offering up a little something more than a troubadour playing his songs and telling his tales.

Springfield did both of those very well, too. Despite a burned left hand (from spilling tea) and a road-burned voice most noticeable early in the 18-song set, Springsteen was engaging and entertaining; given his acting credits it's no surprise that he knows how to deliver a line, but his stories -- whether about playing in a blues band with thuggish bandmates as a teenager in Australia or the inspirations for songs such as "Don't Talk to Strangers," "Honeymoon in Beirut," "Written in Rock" and "Jessie's Girl" -- were heartfelt and genuine, and the pairing of two songs about his late father, "April 24, 1981" and "My Father's Chair," was as emotionally moving for Springfield as it was for the SoundBoard crowd.

The stripped-back format also let him reach outside the box for his song selections, too. He played Fleetwood Mac's "Oh! Well" after talking about his experiences touring Vietnam in the late 60s during the war to entertain the troops, and Hambone Willie Newbern's "Rollin' and Tumblin' " after recalling his blues band experience. Badfinger's "Baby Blue" allowed Springfield to talk about some (literally) high times with Todd Rundgren, and he pulled out one song he wrote when he was 15 ("Painted Girl," with liberal commentary about the sophomoric lyrics) as well as a brand new tune, the self-deprecating, country-flavored "If Wishes Were Fishes."

A short Q&A session found Springfield fielding queries about everything from his underwear preferences to his favorite musicians and gave him a chance to play bits of the Church's "Under the Milky Way," the Beatles' "When I'm 64" and his own "Souls," and he finished the night with "Human Touch" -- and appropriate close to a warm, revealing evening that was on par with if not even better than his standard, full-scale concerts.

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