So what could be more Midwestern than a festival honoring and featuring sweetcorn in August? The annual Urbana Sweetcorn Festival has been going on in Urbana, IL (home to the University of Illinois) for 39 years. Aside from the delectable ears of corn that are available for a nominal price, the streets of downtown Urbana are filled with other summer delicacies, drinks, and music.
The headliner for the 2014 festival was Eddie Money, iconic 1980's rock star. His fairly recent Geico insurance commercial ...
... certainly made me wonder if it would even be worth my while to see him at a free festival. Reviews found on the internet seemed to be one way or another: either he was great or he appeared to be drunk and put on a terrible performance. His voice is pretty obviously shot, and I know there has been criticism in that he doesn't sing enough of the lyrics himself, instead deferring to his adoring crowd. But ... what the heck -- I missed out on seeing Steely Dan at the Illinois State Fair the weekend before, so it was time to hit the free concert!
Money's tour schedule indicates that he plays primarily three types of venues: small clubs/concert halls, casinos throughout the U.S and festivals/fairs. He had what appeared to be a few thousand people listening on a wonderful Midwest August night.
His set started out with a classic, "Baby Hold On." His daughter, Jesse, sings with Money's stage band, and she seemed to do well throughout the evening, especially when featured.
Money covered all of his hits throughout the hour-long set, including "I Wanna Go Back," "Walk on Water" and "Take Me Home Tonight" (with Jesse doing a fine job with the Ronnie Spector part). He closed out the set with "Think I'm in Love" and his signature hit "Two Tickets to Paradise." The obligatory encore concluded with the hit "Shakin'."
Money is a big supporter of military veterans and is donating proceeds from his new single, One More Soldier Coming Home, to the Fallen Heroes Fund. He came out immediately after the performance to sign Eddie Money items bought at the concert, which largely consisted of tee shirts (some portion of the profits going to support military/veterans causes) that sold for ... $40! During the concert, when speaking about the shirt sales, Money said "Hey -- this is not like the Rolling Stones -- the shirts are $20 ... really $40." I thought he was kidding. Needless to say, I declined.
So the big question: What was the concert really like? Money was having a great time with the crowd and was pretty, for lack of a better word, goofy. I didn't think he was drunk, but got the impression that this was just where he is right now in life. He did, unfortunately, defer waaay too much of the singing to the crowd, especially on the choruses of his big hits. His voice, never one of the great voices of popular music, has diminished over the years, but was certainly better than the way it sounded in that Geico commercial. I guess he enjoyed the campy act he put on in that advertisement. Money's performance on the saxophone and harmonica, however, was really quite good.
So ... if you are a music purist and want to see Eddie Money perform songs just as he recorded them, you will be disappointed. But ... if you are having a good time at a free fair and free concert, you will find that he puts on a pretty decent show. I enjoyed the show, but was glad that I had the proper expectations beforehand.
Rock on, Money Man!