Styx and REO Speedwagon can’t stop rockin’

Cale Dodds talks about classic rock like he’s a musical old-timer who witnessed the genre’s rise.

“It was something that was real. There was nothing fake about it,” he said. “You don’t see that these days.”

He’s 21.

Dodds, singer and guitarist for local band Classic Addict, will attend Sunday’s Styx/REO Speedwagon concert at the Columbus Civic Center.

He admits his first immersion into the classic rock world happened in the womb.

He wasn’t born when the genre’s bands first released most of their hits. Neither were many of Classic Addict’s fans.

But that doesn’t prevent them from going crazy when Dodds sings the opening verses of a Journey song at a local hot spot.

It’s evidence of a classic rock resurgence, one that’s hardly confined to fans who can tell stories about the first time they saw these acts in concert.

Just ask Lawrence Gowan, keyboard player and co-vocalist for Styx.

“The audience keeps getting younger and younger,” Gowan said of the band’s shows.

Musical resurgence

Attribute it in part to the popularity of video games like “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero.”

Then, there’s television’s influence.

Contestants on the most recent season of “American Idol” tackled music by Styx, Journey, Foghat and Janis Joplin — to name just a few.

“Glee,” the new Fox series about a high school glee club, featured an REO Speedwagon song.

Should we mention how Mariah Carey’s currently entertaining contemporary music listeners with her cover of a Foreigner tune?

Either way, fans say it’s not difficult to understand classic rock’s appeal.

“The common denominator with all these groups is the immense talent,” said Al Haynes, morning personality for Columbus FM radio station 95.3 The Ride.

Quick: List some songs by Styx and REO Speedwagon.

Chances are, you didn’t hesitate.

Styx has “Renegade,” “Come Sail Away,” “Mr. Roboto,” “Babe.” REO Speedwagon fans rock out to hits like “Keep On Loving You,” “Take It on the Run,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”

That vast catalog of hits has kept Dodds hooked on the music.

“You can play the album beginning to end and love every song,” he said.

Sarah Hockridge, 25-year-old frontwoman for local band Ophir Drive, likes the genre because it’s not divided by rigid characterizations like “emo” and “screamo.”

“Classic rock was a lot more free than rock music today,” she said.

Influential rockers

The genre might have a larger pop culture presence, but musicians at classic rock’s center say the music hardly needs resuscitating.

“It has never really gone out of favor,” said Kevin Cronin, lead singer and principle songwriter for REO Speedwagon.

That’s the message behind “Can’t Stop Rockin,’” the new single Styx and REO Speedwagon perform together during their shows.

The bands have had a longtime partnership, which they say enhances the quality of concerts like this weekend’s Can’t Stop Rockin’ tour.

“It’s a very unique relationship we have with those guys,” Cronin said. “The music just does kind of complement each other. It brings out the best out of both bands.”

Gowan said fans thrive on the tour’s high-energy appeal, and seem to never tire of the rock show experience.

“The audiences have just been spectacular for us to play for,” he said. “There seems to be an insatiable hunger to see the band play live.”

Bands like Hockridge’s Ophir Drive say maybe that’s what makes classic rock so enticing: the hope that one day, your guitar riffs will also be strong enough to ensure a decades-long “wow” factor.

“We’re all just trying to do something as cool as they did,” Hockridge said.

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