‘Jessie’s Girl’ rocks NY Fair despite delays

Shortly after the scheduled 8 p.m. start of the Rick Springfield concert at the Great New York State Fair on Saturday, a drum beat began blaring from the speakers of the concert venue at the fairgrounds’ Chevrolet Court.

The crowd, whose interest in Springfield ranged from non-existent to obsessive, united with anticipation, clapping to the beat as it quickened and signaled the nearing of the performance. Once Springfield’s band entered the stage, the crowd neared fever-pitch anticipation for the former soap opera actor whose singing career peaked with the 1981 hit single ‘Jesse’s Girl.’

Then, without warning, the music stopped, the band exited the stage, the lights were lifted and the crowd fell silent with confusion.

After a few minutes of quiet, the audience was still in the dark as to what was happening.

‘What the heck is the delay?’ asked one female fan aloud. ‘Come on!’

Almost immediately, as if in a response, the large screen adjacent to the stage flashed the fair’s logo, along with this year’s suddenly ironic motto written beneath it: ‘Expect the unexpected.’

The crowd that had so eagerly looked forward to the performance began to debate whether to stay for it.

‘I don’t even like him that much to begin with,’ another female fan uttered. ‘Now they’re making me wait?’

More than 10 minutes after the show came to a sudden halt, the fans had been given no indication as to what was the problem. And their anger was noticeable. When a young girl enthusiastically attempted to start a ‘We want Springfield!’ chant, no one joined in, leaving her to shout alone.

Even diehard fans were beginning to lose faith. Springfield’s afternoon set started at 4, but was shut down because of thunderstorms after just six songs. When the evening set was delayed, fans began to fear that those few songs were all they would hear.

‘I’ve been waiting 20 years for this,’ said Juliette Marley of Fort Drum. ‘I was freaking out. I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is not going to happen.”

Finally, at 8:18, the fair’s emcee emerged to provide the audience with a long overdue explanation. Apparently, there was a power failure backstage and stage hands were working diligently to fix the problem.

By 8:30, there was still no Springfield, and certainly no ‘Jesse’s Girl.’ Some disgruntled audience members gave up on waiting and left. After all, the concert was a free one for all fairgoers. Those without a vested interest had little reason for staying.

At 8:41, the stage regained power and the concert picked up exactly where it had left off. Springfield, with his hair as long as it has ever been, hit the stage in a sleeveless shirt, showing off a tattoo of a cross on his arm. Then, he flashed a smile to the crowd and immediately won them back over to his side.

‘Let’s try this again,’ Springfield smugly offered.

With this second-effort, he did not disappoint.

During his first song, Springfield let a fan onstage and hugged her, much to her delight. After his third song, ‘I’ve Done Everything For You,’ Springfield dazzled the crowd by heaving his guitar in the sky above the stage three times and successfully catching it by the neck each time.

The former star of General Hospital reverted to wholesome pop goodness during his song ‘Don’t Talk to Strangers,’ when he entered the crowd and walked through it, asking individual fans – old and young alike – sing the chorus in his stead.

‘I was not expecting him to be so down to earth and in the audience,’ said Dawn Penniman of East Syracuse. ‘He was really connecting with everybody, kissing people and hugging people. I was not expecting that from somebody of his caliber.’

Clearly, though, the one-time heartthrob still has his swagger with the ladies. Throughout the concert, Springfield let his fans grab his buttocks while he traversed the seating area, singing and playing his guitar amid the crowd.

Marley was one of many female fans still enchanted enough to grab any part of Springfield that she could. For her, that piece was a discarded guitar pick.

‘I saw it fall,’ she said. ‘I jumped over the seat for it and grabbed it off the ground.’

At one point during the show, Springfield showed off his raunchier side. He grabbed a silly string can from a young fan, held it at the head of the guitar and sprayed the string into the air, announcing to the crowd, ‘Oh, my guitar is getting excited.’

Later, he spoke endearingly of his wife, only to balance that with smashing his guitar upon finishing a guitar solo.

This teetering between wholesome family fun and a rock star attitude made for a charming contradiction that helped define his highly entertaining set.

‘Rick just rocks,’ said Dan Olivado of Syracuse. ‘People don’t realize what a show he puts on and how hard the guy rocks. Everyone knows him from one hit and the soap opera or whatever, but they don’t realize that he’s out here doing it.’

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