NAPA — Rick Springfield released a new bluesy record just a few months ago, but it was his ’80s power pop hits on which he focused the most Sunday at the Uptown Theatre.
Springfield covered songs from from eight of his albums and a few of his 17 Top 40 hits, including 2016’s Rocket Science. He opened the show with “Light The Party Up,” from that record. The set included two covers; Sammy Hagar’s “I’ve Done Everything For You,” which came early in the show, and a bluesy take on Chip Taylor’s “Wild Thing,” which was followed by an extended guitar solo.
As for the hits, they were spread throughout. “I Get Excited,” from ’82’s platinum Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet, was the first song to hit home Sunday. “Affair of the Heart,” “Love Somebody” and “Don’t Talk to Strangers” would follow later. During the latter, Springfield came down into the first few rows and invited a handful of fans to sing the song’s refrain. Out of about a dozen or so people, the closest one who came to holding a note was an 81-year-old woman who said she’s been to all of the shows on Springfield’s current tour.
Rick Springfield is not just a musician. His first major success was acting, and because of that, he’s an expert performer. Throughout the show he was mugging with his bandmates and striking rock start poses as a video screen behind the stage showed a younger Springfield mugging for the camera and striking rock star poses.
The singer-songwriter has not shied away from chronicling his fight with depression and has previously explained why, when he’s asked how he’s doing, he always tells the truth. Several times at the show, he also hinted he was not in a good place on this night: “I’m a little depressed tonight. Maybe you can lift me up,” he said at one point.
The lone new tune, from January’s The Snake King, was “Little Demon.” While the album, and this song, was a return to Springfield’s early influence of blues rock, it came across as a hybrid of The Black Keys and Van Halen on stage—which is to say it sounded good. During the song, and one other, the video screen depicted a city on fire. If that image affected the Napa audience—many residents are still trying to recover from last fall’s wildfires—it wasn’t noticeable.
The “Jessie’s Girl” rocker saved his best-known song for the encore, but he and his band called back to it at least two other times during the 90-minute set: during a five-song medley blast (for about three seconds), and later during a brief mid-song jam session.
— Roman Gokhman