This is a part of our full coverage of the 2018 80s Cruise. Read more about the floating music festival here.
Rick Springfield was as ubiquitous in the 80s as pleated jeans and feathered hair. The singer and actor dropped six albums in eight years, starred on the biggest show in daytime, and found the time to break into film. It was impossible to walk past a newsstand and not see his face plastered on the front of every teen and gossip magazine. It would not have been a surprise to find out that he was wallpapered onto the walls of 75 percent of the teenage girl population.
Springfield was clearly the biggest draw this year with decks and hallways filled with passengers sporting tour t-shirts and pins. While their enthusiasm was contagious, it did occasionally cause agita amongst other passengers. Anything he hosted was mobbed, making it difficult to see, and there was more than a little shoving, even in the seated main theater. That was assuming a guest could even get into the performances. As Dave August pointed out, “(There were) lines forming three hours prior to an event.”
A few overly enthusiastic fans aside, Springfield proved himself to be an impressive and agile musician. Besides headlining two main stage shows, he introduced several events, participated in a game show, held a marathon autograph session, played shows poolside, and most impressively, hosted two piano jams with the other musicians on board such as Terri Nunn, Thomas Dolby, Mike Reno, and Tommy Heath. It seemed like a ridiculous schedule, but he came across as both affable and lively, which couldn’t have always been easy.
Springfield performed numerous times over the course of the week to thrilled audiences, but his song choices were confusing. He had 17 songs on the Billboard Top 100 during the 80s, yet out of the dozens of songs he played, precious few were from the decade that made him famous. Most of what he performed during the week were covers from earlier decades and felt very much out of place. There were some winners amongst them, particularly his version of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, but more than a few, such as The Kinks 1964 single, “You Really Got Me”, failed to tread new ground.
When Springfield wasn’t covering the songs from his youth, most of his material was from his last two albums, 2016’s Rocket Science and 2018’s The Snake King. He performed the lead single from the new album at least four times during the course of the week. “Little Demon” had a much harder edge than most of his earlier work and it worked well live, but by the time he played it during the final night main stage show, it felt tiresome.
After a week of songs that would have fit better on the Flower Power Cruise, expectations were high for the last big show of the week. The opening song, 2016’s “Light This Party Up”, fit the party atmosphere and things were looking up with the next two songs. “I’ve Done Everything for You,” from the 1981 platinum selling Working Class Dog record got a roar of approval from the audience. There were more than a few squeals when he followed it with the alluring, “I Get Excited” from 1982’s Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet. From there, it was “Little Demon” again and “Down” from Rocket Science.
While most concertgoers expect to hear a bevy of new songs when they venture out to see the latest tour from their favorite artist, there is a different expectation when they are paying $3000 for a week of nostalgia. To give this some perspective, U2 has long elicited eyerolls from crowds for overplaying their new songs live, but on their last album tour, only seven songs out of a 23 song setlist were from Songs of Innocence. Duran Duran’s “Paper Gods” tour only featured four songs from Paper Gods, Depeche Mode’s “Global Spirit” tour had 5 out of 22 songs from Spirit, and Bon Jovi’s most recent tour had 5 songs played from This House is Not for Sale out of a staggering 24 song setlist.
Six of the songs Springfield chose to play were from recent albums. Two more were cover songs including what was the strangest, most perplexing song choice of the week. Halfway through the show, he launched into “Roar” by Katy Perry. As if the decision to perform the cloying tween anthem wasn’t odd enough, midway through, he stopped and asked the audience if they wanted him to finish it. After receiving an almost unilateral, “no” in response, he finished the song anyway.
He could be forgiven for playing such utter drivel in a concert with a long setlist, but the Cruise schedule only allotted 90 minutes for each show. It didn’t help the situation that a late dinner reservation pushed the 9 p.m. start time to 9:15 p.m. So while the crowd got to see Springfield perform a note for note interpretation of “Wild Thing”, they missed the song that was supposed to end the show, 1982’s, “Kristina,” because of time.
Song choice aside, Springfield has always been known for putting on high energy shows that engage the audience and he delivered on both fronts. He smartly chose to limit the number of ballads to two: 1982’s, “What Kind of Fool Am I?” and 2012’s, “Our Ship is Sinking”. The latter was accompanied by background video of the sinking of numerous ships including the Titanic. Not everyone was thrilled by his choice to include the song and footage, but it was easy to see the humor in it.
The newer tracks showed a much harder edge than his older music. “Little Demon” and “Miss Mayhem” were the best of the bunch, but the energy Springfield brought to his recent work made them all fun to watch. Of course, the crowd was happiest hearing old favorites like “Affair of the Heart” and “Jessie’s Girl” He was able to breathe new life into old classics like, “Don’t Talk to Strangers” by adding some audience participation into the mix. During “Human Touch” from 1983’s Living in Oz, Springfield leapt into the audience and traversed the center of the venue by climbing over chairs. He stopped along the way to take selfies and accept sweaty kisses from excited fans.
Springfield has always been best performing his own music. The 80s Cruise would have been the perfect time to break out a few of his own classics instead of a bunch of covers. But although it may have been disappointing to hear “Twist and Shout” instead of a forgotten gem like 1981’s “Red Hot and Blue Love”, his enthusiasm for just being onstage went a long way in forgiving him for that cover of “Roar”.