February 15, 1982
A screaming contingent claiming to be half the city of Virginia joined several thousand other rock fans crammed into the entrance of the Duluth Arena on Monday, February 15, 1982, before a concert by rock groups Loverboy and Quarterflash. Tickets for the concert sold out faster than any show since Elvis Presley, and the doors opened an hour and a half early to handle the crush of the 8,000 fans. (Bob King / News-Tribune)
Quarterflash, Loverboy bring good rockin’ to Duluth Arena
By Bob Ashenmacher, News-Tribune staff writer
Quarterflash was good at the Duluth Arena on Monday night. Lead singer Rindy Ross threaded her alto sax and appealing voice through 40 minutes of material sure to make Pat Benatar more irritable than she must be already. The sellout crowd of 8,000 was swaying and yelling for more after the group’s climactic hit single, "Harden My Heart."
So return Quarterflash did, to end things with a lark. They brought out the Byrds’ "So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star," shining with a touch of chrome from Patti Smith’s version, and left the crowd wanting more.
Quarterflash was good, all right.
But the headline act, Loverboy, simply blew them out of the water.
Two or three songs into the Canadian quintet’s set, it was clear they were an exceptionally good live band – an hour later they’d blasted out the best night of rock at the Arena in a long, long time.
They exhibited qualities you just don’t expect to find in stadium acts. Technically, they sounded as good as their records. Lead singer Mike Reno’s voice got stronger as the night wore on. They kept the songs short and didn’t dink around between them. Best of all, they worked as hard onstage – as joyfully – as anyone I’ve seen since Springsteen.
From the first notes that jumped out of group leader Paul Dean’s guitar, the crowd was in his hands. But he and Reno never played down to their audience, or played hard to get. They just worked their butts off to wring even louder screams out of the hoarse mass that jammed the Arena floor, and the seats up to the rafters.
Much of the group’s material is standard hard rock fare. The rhythms are re-hashed, the lyrics typical, and the slower numbers, especially, sound shamefully close to Foreigner, But just when you’ve written off a plodding synthesizer waddle, keyboard maan Doug ("Doctor J") Johnson pulls out a saxophone and blows a bluesy sixteen-bar solo melody that seems to come from nowhere. He weaved a lot of delightful moments like those Monday night, using everything from electric piano to gravelly organ.
Dean, too, is intelligently flamboyant on his instrument. And Reno was so sexy I thought the girls in front would faint with ecstasy when he stuffed a bandana down his tight black Levis.
The group did 15 songs in a solid 90-minute set. The big crescendo started about 9:30 p.m., with "Turn Me Loose," and increased with "The Kid Is Hot Tonite." The place went nuts, absolutely nuts, with "Working for the Weekend." It’s a great party song, and as mentioned, Reno’s voice seemed to be getting more powerful all the time.
The kid in front of me, who looked to be about 14, could only mutter, "Excellent. Excellent." The Bic lighters flared through the gloom like the biggest planetarium you ever saw.
Right-o, kid. There was good rockin’ Monday night in Duluth.
Loverboy returned to Duluth for a concert in the summer of 1983, and again on March 30, 1986. The group played the Head of the Lakes Fair in Superior in 2002, and performed at Grand Casino Hinckley in 2004.
Here are some early-1980s publicity shots of Loverboy from the News Tribune files. The first photo is from 1980, the second from 1982:
And here are a few close-ups of that crowd photo at the start of this post:
Were you at the 1982 concert? Do you recognize anyone in the crowd? Share your memories by posting a comment.
- Andrew Krueger