This is a part of our full coverage of the 2018 80s Cruise. Read more about the floating music festival here.
Canada produced more than a few top selling acts in the 1980s, but only one gets radio airplay like clockwork every Friday afternoon. Loverboy may be best known for their steering wheel thumping classic, “Working for the Weekend,” but the band sold more than 10 million copies of their first four albums. Yet despite those multiplatinum albums, the band fought for relevancy at the end of the decade thanks to the rise of the hair bands.
While many bands of the era have broken up, fired members, or just sputtered out, Loverboy has been together almost continuously since guitarist Paul Dean met lead singer Mike Reno in a Calgary warehouse in 1978. There were rough patches both musically, Dean and Reno didn’t always see eye-to-eye on musical direction, and personally. The band lost bassist, Scott Smith, to a boating accident in 2000.
All of those years together explained why Loverboy put on one of the tightest shows on the 2018 Cruise. The band started their set with one of their later singles, 1987’s “Notorious.” The song was a moderate hit, but it was definitely one of the least interesting songs in the set. The band moved onto better territory with, “Lucky Ones,” from Get Lucky. The 1981 album was the band’s biggest seller on the strength of the musical interaction between Dean and keyboardist, Doug Johnson.
The follow up to Get Lucky was 1983’s Keep it Up, which featured the singles, “Hot Girls in Love” and “Queen of the Broken Hearts.” The two songs sold well even though “Girls” had possibly the cheesiest lyrics of the mid-80s and “Queen” had a video that was part Mad Max, part Clan of the Cave Bear, but with a lot more leather. Despite having come from questionable pop culture reference points, both songs played well live.
Most of the songs in the set were from the band’s self-titled first album and Get Lucky, both of which were far more interesting than the albums that came later in the band’s career. As the 80s progressed, Loverboy seemed to shift from riding the line between hard rock and new wave to something between pop music and hair metal. The songs were still catchy, but they weren’t as compelling as the earlier stuff.
If there was one weak point in the set, it was during the ballad, “This Could be the Night.” There was nothing inherently terrible about the song, it just felt out of place in a set that was one upbeat track after another. Luckily, the band followed it with the fist-pumper, “The Kid is Hot Tonight.”
The best songs of the night were the ones where Loverboy found the sweet spot between Dean and Johnson’s melodies and their interplay with the rhythm section comprised of drummer, Matt Frenette, and bassist, Ken Sinnaeve. “Lucky Ones,” “Take Me to the Top,” “When it’s Over,” and “Turn Me Loose” all highlighted the excellent interplay between the musicians. They also happened to feature Reno’s best vocals.
Reno came across as mildly sheepish when the band first took the stage, but soon enough, the singer regained the confidence he had back when he was clad in his famous red leather pants. He erupted into gales of laughter when he realized that a passenger in the front row, Bryan Do, was dressed like “Long Duk Dong” from Sixteen Candles – right down to an inflatable “Sexy American Girlfriend.”
As Loverboy finished their set to unfettered cheering, Reno told the crowd that they had been the best audience the band had seen in years.