Manchester Apollo, 19 June 2008
Photos by Ian Pollard
An apparently full Manchester Apollo (in seated mode), settles down for
the 3rd visit in as many years from the masters of AOR. Strange that they
had a gap of over 20 years between visits before then, as there is clearly
a persistent fan base willing to part with their hard earned cash on a
regular basis to witness these events - despite the fact that they have
seen a different vocalist on each recent visit.
Opening up proceedings is John Parr, with his band, and he delivers an
entertaining set, well received by the audience. Highlight of the set is
the excellent "Under A Raging Moon", co-written by Parr with Geoff Downes
for the Roger Daltry solo album of the same name, as a tribute to The
Who's late drummer, Keith Moon.
The rest of his set is mostly unknown to me (the curse of the one hit
wonder, though looking at JP's writing credits elsewhere this is hard to
understand), before John jovially announces that he will finish with "a
medley of his hit"!
He introduces "St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)" with the history of it's
inspiration - nothing to do with the film, but as a tribute to the efforts
of wheelchair activist Rick Hansen. The song is performed well to an
enthusiastic response, but sadly the keyboards are too low down in the mix
to be heard properly.
Why do they bother making rock gigs all-seated? The instant Journey take
the stage, the first few rows are on their feet, and needless to say
everyone else has to follow suit if they want to see anything. Just leave
the seats out, knock £10 off the ticket price, get 50% more people in and
everyone is happy!
Enough of that; Journey arrive with new man Arnel Pineda at the helm, and
a new album to support. Seems fitting that they open with a new song,
"Never Walk Away". Ross Valory and Jonathan Cain (starting in rhythm
guitar mode) team up on stage left, with Neal Schon to the right (as
viewed from the audience). In the centre, appears this diminutive figure
from the Phillipines, in only his 8th gig with the band. Arnel is not
lacking in confidence though, and has boundless energy - not to mention
the pitch perfect voice required for this job.
JC steps behind his shiny new black grand piano (looks like 'The Whale'
has been moved into retirement), and taps away, on the cunningly disguised
synth rack, the opening bars of "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)", which of
courses raises the crowd to a peak of excitement that never dwindles for
the rest of the show. Any doubts anyone could have had about Arnel are
dispelled with the first Perry era song, with his vocals way up in the
mix, showing that the band have full confidence in him.
The set list is comprised mainly of songs from Escape, Frontiers and new
album, Revelation. Not much ad-libbing or chat between songs means they
can cram in as much as possible.
I'm sure that as Arnel gains confidence in the role, he will bring his own
style to many of the songs, and the chat will increase. He has a very
gruelling tour schedule between now and October, and I would expect shows
at the end of the tour to be quite different. For now, he is happy to just
sing the songs and jump around the stage with enthusiasm. The rest of the
band look entirely comfortable with the set up, and interact well around
A couple of songs ("Keep On Runnin'" & "Mother, Father") see Deen
Castronovo handle vocal duties, giving Arnel a chance to rest his vocal
chords. These songs have become a highlight for me in recent years, as
Deen has a fantastic, soulful voice - as well as being a superb drummer.
There is no place in the set for "Be Good To Yourself" or "Lovin', Touchin'
Squeezin'" this time round, but something had to make way for the new
songs. Of those, "After All These Years" sounded the best, but could
easily be called "Faithfully, part 2", as it follows a very similar form.
Neal Schon plays to perfection throughout the set, including some sublime
solos and some excellent mandolin work - joined by Jonathan Cain on
harmonica. I need to find what secret formula these guys are taking, as
neither looks anything close to the 50+ years that they are. I guess the
San Francisco bay area lifestyle is good for health!
All too soon it is time for the best song ever written, and the main set
is closed with "Don't Stop Believin'". An encore of "Escape" and "Any You
Want It" follows, and that's it. Hopefully they will continue the recent
trend of regular trips across the pond, and be visiting Manchester again
soon - although I can't help but be jealous of the US fans, who will get
Journey, Heart, & Cheap Trick on the same bill later this summer.
Never Walk Away
Only The Young
Stone In Love
Keep On Runnin'
Ask The Lonely
Who's Crying Now
Change For The Better
After All These Years
Wheel In The Sky
Edge Of The Blade
Dont Stop Believin'
Any Way You Want It
and photos by Ian Pollard
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