Theresa and her husband probably appreciated their front row seats at the Mayne Stage Saturday night. When they attended the hot air balloon fest, in Lisle, they had been separated from Poco by a body of water, she described as a moat. Nevertheless, having been to about twenty concerts, they deserved to be within arm’s length from Rusty Young, the only remaining original member. That loyalty meant that when they ran into Rusty and his wife, Mary, again, they were warmly greeted and recognized as that couple from Racine.

Theresa explained that her husband was a certified “Poconut,’ who, all the way down to Chicago, had grilled her on the facts: “Who sang lead on ‘Heart of the Night'? When did Richie Furay leave the band? When did the band start recording originals?” She looked relieved to be amongst other fans who might pick up the slack.

John R. Von Arx III, from Indianapolis, also looked excited. After the concert, he explained his own history. “I fell in love with Poco in 1971-72 when WNEW– FM radio in New York City started playing the albums 'From the Inside' and 'A Good Feelin' to Know'. Scott Muni and Pete Fornatale, two of the great voices on that pioneering, progressive FM radio station first introduced me to Poco when I was in high school. I was a Buffalo Springfield fan, but admittedly didn't know of Richie Furay or Rusty Young (when he joined to play on the song 'Kind Woman').”

“The country rock sound that Poco created was indelibly burned in my head. On my drive to college at Indiana University in the summer of 1973, I drove a small little convertible Fiat and listened only to one cassette tape during the entire trip - Poco's 'Crazy Eyes'."

“I was pretty upset after learning that Richie left the band after 'Crazy Eyes', but was such a Rusty Young fan as well that I've continued to be a lifelong fan of the band. Although after all these years, this is the first time I've ever seen Rusty and Poco play live. I own a live concert DVD of Poco's recorded in 2004 that has Rusty, Richie, George Grantham, Paul Cotton and Jack Sundrud playing live. I've watched that so many times it seems like I have seen Poco in concert hundreds of times. Coincidently I just saw Richie Furay live in September 2013, and just like Rusty he still has the music magic as they both can still play it like the old days.”

"But Poco's music this past Saturday night was just as fresh, happy and as uplifting as it was when I listened to them driving on I-80 in the summer of 1973 on my way to college. You can tell that Rusty and Jack are very close personally, and they were very connected musically on stage on Saturday night. Rusty's personality seems to come out during his shows as such a kind, and heartwarming individual. I was saddened, however, when he mentioned at this show that he would be retiring from performing in early 2014."

"When he said that onstage, and then when I got a chance to meet him and speak with him after the show, I could see the sadness in his eyes. He said, 'I guess all good things must come to an end – as they say'. I guess that is correct, but I'm just not ready to admit it when it comes to the music of Poco. I can't help but think of the song 'When It All Began' that they recorded in 1989."

"Also, the first track of the Poco DVD is entitled 'Where Did the Time Go'?, and it is such fitting title considering that Poco is now coming to a close. I have never really understood why Poco never had the mega-commercial success, but from my perspective they were one of the most influential and enjoyable bands of all time – always making you smile, and feeling the energy and enthusiasm of life.”

It was only after the concert that I, too, felt something like a tear in my throat. I didn’t really come to terms with it until I saw the man in the black, western-style shirt with embroidered trim, who had been sitting at a table with a bunch of friends. “I’m feeling a little sad tonight,” he confided.

The funny thing was that you wouldn’t have guessed that this would be the final Poco concert if you hadn’t been tipped off earlier or if Rusty hadn’t announced it to the house. Jack Sundrud, Michael Webb, George Lawrence and Rusty were completely on top of their game, extending the band’s most popular ballads with in-depth solos and consistent interaction.

Michael Webb, the most current member – Sundrud rejoined the band more than a decade ago, and drummer, Lawrence, joined in 2000 - wowed the audience with his imaginative arrangements and solid grasp of so many instruments. He added a Zydeco edge with his gleaming silver accordion to current songs like the title song off their new album, 'All Fired Up', and a semi-classical bent to the Young-penned Poco classic ‘Rose of Cimmaron’ with his pianistic precision.

Young played steel guitar on several tunes, but mostly stuck to clean solos on his electric. If he felt world weary, he certainly didn’t show it. In fact, he greeted the audience like we were old friends. “We’re a little tired. We drove from Covington, Kentucky to get here,” he said and then, he made a wise crack about the aggressive Chicago drivers, which no one could dispute.

“This is the last time we’ll be coming out. Mary and I have a log cabin in Missouri and it’s hard to leave home,” he confessed, and then launched into ‘Just Call It Love’ with its melancholy riff and smooth jazz sway. Webb trimmed the edges with a fastidious solo and then again in the outro on ‘Rose of Cimmaron’, a song originally intended for Roy Rogers. The band shared vocal lines and melded their voices together with gorgeous harmonies. Webb’s extended solo really brought out the haunting melody.

Rusty introduced ‘All Fired Up,’ which he claimed “Could have been on any Poco album.” It was accentuated by Lawrence’s driving beat and Webb’s sublime mandolin picking. Webb squeezed primal notes out of his Baldoni, with Jack belting out lead vocals on his destined-to-be a classic ‘Drink It In’, also from the new album.

Referencing 1978’s 'Legend', the band played ‘Crazy Love’ and ‘Heart of the Night’ behind Rusty’s still strong tenor and Jack’s energetic vocals and rhythm guitar. It was Rusty’s turn to man the mandolin, with Webb adding great excitement with the accordion

‘Regret’, which Rusty said was “a song I had to write,’ is also featured on the new album. The tearful theme contrasted the upbeat lyrics of the rest of the set, but the melody was unforgettable.

In contrast, was their homage to Rock and Roll, which on the album is enhanced by the sax of Bobby Keys. Here, Webb kept up a contagious riff with his red electric and forceful lead vocals. Sundrud’s Peter Gunnesque bass added a real kick as well.

’Pickin’ Up the Pieces’, from the 1968 album of the same name, was another reason to go hog wild and to get Young back on steel guitar. The quartet traded solos, feeding off of each other’s energy in a way that kept the entire audience buzzing.

After the Tim B. Schmidt ‘Keep on Tryin’’, awash with stellar backing vocals, Rusty soloed on the first song he ever wrote, ‘A Little Rain Don’t Bother Me’. He sang in tandem with the raw, bluesy melody line before he joined back in with Lawrence.

One of the most poignant moments came when Sundrud sang lead vocals on his masterpiece, ‘Hard Country’, which details the story of the dwindling farmer population of Minnesota, where he was raised. The bittersweet nature of the tune was echoed by Webb’s heartfelt accordion.

Poco had to grace us with a grand finale after this two-hour show – even if it would be a farewell song, so the band eagerly returned after a standing ovation to play ‘Good Feelin’ to Know’, which showcased their unarguable chemistry and superb harmonies. So, was this a sad night? Well, the last two and a half hours felt like an enormous party, and since Rusty had said, to John, “I guess all good things have to come to an end,’ what else could we do but wish them all the best? But with the expertise and enthusiasm exhibited tonight and the undisputable solo careers that are sure to evolve from this line-up, we’ll be hearing great things from several members whilst wishing Rusty and Mary some heavenly views from their wing of the Mark Twain National Forest, and, of course, as the song says, “It’s a good feeling to know somebody loves you…”

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