I’ve been a fan of Rick Springfield since he was climbing the charts with Working Class Dog and charming the pants off of nurses as Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital. And even though I was lucky enough to meet him (and get a photo and an autograph) in 2010, when he was promoting his autobiography Late, Late at Night: A Memoir, I had never had the experience of seeing him in concert.
Finally, after decades of Rick Springfield adoration, I finally got to see him in concert on Sunday, February 12 at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingwood, New Jersey, on his Stripped Down Tour.
I was immediately impressed by his obsessively loyal fan base, who turned the 1,050-seat auditorium into what felt like a family reunion. While the lights were still up, people waved at each other across the room and met up in the aisles, proudly sporting Rick paraphernalia – including more than a handful of Jessie’s Girl t-shirts – and reminiscing about the last time they had seen each other at a show.
Once the lights went down, a large screen at the back of the stage projected a montage of images and video clips spanning the entirety of Rick’s impressive career – from guest-star turns in the 1970s on TV shows like Wonder Woman and the Incredible Hulk to his 1981 Grammy win for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, to more recent career milestones like his 2016 album Rocket Science and his role alongside Meryl Streep in the movie Ricki in the Flash.
Rick finally emerged onto the stage to a level of screaming and applause that you would only expect from a man who has graced more than one Tiger Beat cover in his lifetime. I wasn’t sure how I’d like the stripped down show as opposed to a concert with a full band, but it was a fantastic night of music and storytelling. I immediately went home and purchased Rick’s Stripped Down CD, which features a lot of the same songs I heard at the show.
Especially as a first-timer at a Rick show, I loved hearing all of my favorite songs and especially in such an intimate setting – Affair of the Heart, I’ve Done Everything for You, Don’t Talk to Strangers, Human Touch, Love Somebody, and, of course, Jessie’s Girl, which ended the show. One of the highlights for me, as well, was a medley about a third or so of the way into the show of Jessie’s Girl, Tommy Tutone’s 867-5309, and Fountains of Wayne’s Stacey’s Mom – which Rick performed while an image of this t-shirt was projected on the screen behind him.
During Human Touch, Rick jumped off the stage and worked his way through the crowd, stopping for selfies and hugs and generally getting mauled as he wrapped around the lower middle section of the auditorium. Even at 67 years of age, he hasn’t lost his appeal to his adoring female fan base. Luckily I had an aisle seat right along his path back to the stage and while I was much too shy to grab him for a hug, I did get to see him up close and personal for the second time in my life (!).
In between his hits, Rick threw in a few covers, including Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well and one of my favorites of the night, Badfinger’s Baby Blue. He also played what he termed the “orphan suite” – the songs My Father’s Chair and 4 Billion Heartbeats. The deeply personal compositions, about the passing of his father and mother, respectively, brought Rick and many of the audience members to tears, especially since his mom’s death had occurred only a couple months prior.
When Rick wasn’t crooning and strumming away on his guitar, he interspersed the songs with personal stories, while photographs flashed behind him. My favorite story, of course, was about the real-life inspiration for Jessie’s Girl – a stunning girl in Rick’s stained glass art class who only had eyes for her boyfriend.
More than a week later, I’m still talking about the show and reliving it through the Stripped Down CD. Next up on my to-do list: Seeing Rick in concert with a full band.