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The last time Canadian rockers Loverboy toured the United States was the late 1980s. Back then, they were pushing an album titled Wildside, and their show was a carefully choreographed piece of work. The musicians had to stand in a certain place, because that was where the laser lights would hit. The song list was set in stone, every night.
With no new record out, the five players in Loverboy feel a bit liberated on their present swing across North America. (Loverboy plays Coyote's on Sun., Aug. 7; tickets are $10.) Sure, they're obligated to play their hits, but it's not the same ballgame anymore.
"We have a lot of new arrangements; most of the songs have been extended a little bit," said bassist Scott Smith in a recent telephone interview. "We can generally go and play as long as we want and end whenever we want."
As long as they play '80s radio staples like "Turn Me Loose," "The Kid Is Hot," "Working for the Weekend," "When It's Over," "Lucky Ones," "Lovin' Every Minute of It," and "Heaven in Your Eyes." Do they ever squirm under the repetition, considering that they aren't presenting any new material?
"There's a song called 'Hot Girls in Love,' which was written very tongue-in-cheek, that we used to roll our eyes at," said Smith. "So we said, 'We have to do something with this song, guys.' So what we did is we made a rule, generally, that because we're not selling anything, anybody at anytime can do anything, say anything, play anything they want to. Go off on a musical tangent. To that end, we made 'Hot Girls in Love' into this elaborate centerpiece with solos by everyone. Now 'Hot Girls' is an eight- to ten-minute extravaganza where people can get up at center stage and play a solo or whatever they want."
What started out as a lark — a two-week stint across Canada — has turned into a full-blown tour, albeit in smaller venues than the band formerly played. The $20 question: Will they be going back into the studio?
We have the songs," Smith said. "We have the record deal if we want it. What we want to do before we commit is look at a couple things.
"Do we really want to do this? We had a great run in the '80s. And then we had a meeting in 1988 and said, 'Let's leave before we embarrass ourselves or start disliking each other or the music. Before we get sour and bitter. Let's leave at a classy time.'"
The band went in different directions, but kept in touch. Some pursued solo careers, others involved themselves in business deals. Families were started or grew further.
"To leave all that and get back together, to walk down Memory Lane and show that we can still get it up — so to say — musically . . . To make a long story short, it's a complex thing. We have five guys and their lives, their children, their careers, that need to be put on hold.
"The big question is whether people want it. There's no way that you can believe a record company, a manager or a producer. Maybe we're paranoid, but we wanted to go out there and see what the public wants," Smith said.
And the verdict?
"The answer to that question is slowly coming into focus. The grass roots wants a new record."
While no decision has been made, Smith at least seems to be leaning toward giving Loverboy another go. He said that the mainstream rock audience has splintered, with many people going to country music and others giving their attention to a variety of pop music sub-groups including grunge, rap and speed metal, to name a few. But the hankering for melodic rock is still with them. The recent spate of sold-out reunion tours is evidence of that.
So now they are "playing as many towns as possible and seeing the old faces." Many of them are cheering wildly, singing along with the choruses of their old hits, and bugging Loverboy after the show about making a new record. Ten-to-one says we'll see it by 1996.