Joliet’s Rialto Square Theatre stage might just be big enough for the big hair, big attitude and big volume of “Hairball: A Bombastic Celebration of Arena Rock.”
The Minneapolis-based entourage of three singers and a three-piece band on Friday night will pay homage to Van Halen, Journey, Kiss, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Poison, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Guns N Roses, Whitesnake, Cheap Trick, Queen and AC/DC.
“There’s a lot of popular eras and genres, but this is the one we all grew up in so it’s perfect for us because we have the same nostalgia as fans do,” Steve Reckinger, 52, said by phone from his home in Omaha, Neb., a day before meeting up with fellow vocalists Rockstar Bob and Joe Dandy, lead guitarist Happy, bassist Freaky and drummer Blake for a Milwaukee gig. “The fans focus on their memories and their nostalgia. We focus on making sure they stay there.”
Reckinger, who says he looks and sounds like Journey’s Steve Perry, said bringing Cheap Trick back into the “Hairball” mix is among his personal highlights since joining “Hairball” two years when the crew snagged him from his Journey tribute band.
In addition to paying tribute to Perry and Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander, Reckinger also takes the mic as Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, Whitesnake’s David Coverdale and Queen’s Freddie Mercury.
The latter, assuredly, was the biggest test of all.
“In rock and roll, Freddie Mercury is the best performer there is,” said Reckinger, a traveling musician since his late teens. “But his style is so unique and so different than mine that I wasn’t sure I could grasp it. I’d practice, but didn’t feel it.”
He then turned to the man who helped him quit smoking in one session.
“I talked to my hypnotist, Kirby McGill, who said, ‘I can’t help you get the character, but I can help you be confident you already have the character.’ He basically gave me the comfortability of knowing what I have is what I need,” he said. “You never know for sure if things like that work or it was your own mentality, but really hypnotism is just bringing out your own mentality and making you capable of doing what you already could do. Sure enough, I used that confidence, walked onstage and I was Freddie.”
The group might play Queen cuts from the ’70s for an older crowd or more ballads for a predominantly female audience and tame down some antics for a kid-friendly show.
“A lot of the decisions are made within the two hours of the show,” he said, “based on what we are in the mood for and what we feel like what might work at that show.”
The band members stay put on stage while each vocalist swaps turns on the mic, dashing backstage between songs for quick costume changes and deciding on the spot how the set list should continue depending on the vibe and crowd.
“The songs, the characters, everything we do is all up to the moment,” Reckinger said. “The ’80s were all about unscripted decadence.”
Vickie Jurkowski is a freelance writer.
‘Hairball: A Bombastic Celebration of Arena Rock’
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Jan 20
Where: Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet
Tickets: $20 to $35