During their ’80s heyday, the Canadian rockers of Loverboy experienced some of their greatest Chicago success in the suburbs, playing outdoors at Poplar Creek in Hoffman Estates and inside at what was then the Rosemont Horizon.
Saturday night, the group returns to Waukegan alongside The Tubes, performing at the Genesee Theatre for the first time since 2016.
“It’s kind of fun to come downtown once in a while, but we’ve been playing the suburbs of Chicago for 40 years,” Loverboy singer Mike Reno said. “I really look forward to coming back to the Genesee. That is a fabulous theater. And they did a wonderful job of fixing it up. I was very impressed with the whole thing. What a great place to see a concert.”
Fueled by the success of hits such as “Working for the Weekend” and “Lovin’ Every Minute of It,” Loverboy sold more than 10 million albums in America.
But Reno achieved his biggest success in collaboration with Ann Wilson of Heart on the song “Almost Paradise,” which cracked the Top 10 of the Billboard 100 singles chart, peaking at No. 7 thanks to its inclusion in the 1984 film “Footloose.”
Recording that song remains one of Reno’s fondest suburban memories. The hit single was put to tape at Pierce Arrow Recorders in Evanston, a car dealership turned recording studio that also hosted sessions by acts such as Cheap Trick before closing in the mid-1980s.
Reno and Wilson knocked out the powerhouse vocal duet in just one take — but it almost didn’t happen.
“The whole scene went down interestingly enough. Pierce Arrow was the name of the studio. The music was recorded. But it took a while for Ann to get there — and it was almost called off, which would’ve been sad. But she arrived,” Reno recalled. “So we chatted for a while and after about half an hour, I said, ‘Do you know the song?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, I know the song.’ And I said, ‘Do you want to give it a go?’ We stood up, sang it into the same microphone, did it once and (producer) Keith Olsen went, ‘Thank you!’ It really was incredible.”
Loverboy’s second album “Get Lucky” was released on Oct. 7, 1981, just two months after the launch of MTV at the inception of the music video era as a groundbreaking new medium for music distribution.
Loverboy wound up being one of the first acts to appear on the new channel.
“We didn’t even know what to call it,” Reno explained of being approached by Columbia Records with the idea of recording the band live on a soundstage for later use in promotional pieces.
“By the time we got to ‘Lovin’ Every Minute Of It’ (in 1985), we rented a complete Holiday Inn hotel for the whole weekend. And everybody was asked to come up with a concept for their dream that they were gonna be loving every minute of,” he continued, explaining the quick progression to more elaborate, and more expensive, videos featuring a storyline, set, director and more.
“By that point, we were spending like half a million dollars on these things.”
Grunge artists such as Nirvana hit during the 1990s alternative music boom and swept away a generation of more pop-oriented rock acts virtually overnight.
But music from groups including Loverboy and The Tubes has taken on renewed life on classic hits radio, and today Loverboy has become a pop culture fixture thanks to placement in Super Bowl ads, movies and more.
For Reno, approaching all of it with a sense of humor has been key.
“You know what we do? We just kind of smile and we smirk,” said the singer. “I’ll give you an example. I finished a concert one night and went back to my room. I’m packing my bag and I’ve got ‘Saturday Night Live’ on. I’ve got a beer going. I’m standing there folding my clothes and all of the sudden, ‘Working for the Weekend’ comes on in the middle of the (Chippendales) skit with (Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley). And they just start dancing like crazy! This is the funny stuff!”
Loverboy is now celebrating its 40th anniversary. And four of its five founding members have been on board throughout. As the group heads back to Waukegan Saturday night, band members will be “working for the weekend,” much like their best-known song.
“That one, for some reason, really clung to everybody. Everyone really clung to it like it was precious. It’s one of those things that somehow you just can’t get out of your system,” said Reno of what has become Loverboy’s most well-known hit. “I think the reason a lot of the disc jockeys played it on Friday afternoons going into the 5 o’clock hour was because they wanted people to get that energy. And that’s kind of the whole essence of that song. Let’s not take our jobs into the weekend. Let’s leave our jobs at the door and let’s have some fun this weekend!”
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Loverboy with special guest The Tubes
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25
Where: Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan, geneseetheatre.com or (847) 263-6300