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Arena, 4 June 2011
Photos by Lee
(Manchester, 8 June)
years of waiting, us Brits finally got to experience what our cousins
across the pond get to see summer after summer - a package tour of three
of the all time greats of AOR knocking out some of rock's most enduring
been many casualties along the way with none of their principal singers
still in the band, but Journey, Foreigner and Styx share a common bond -
each has been revitalised in the past decade by the addition of some
younger talent alongside core members, and through years of constant
touring they have honed the fine art of delivering a well presented show
that can reach out to an audience stretching far back- not for nothing
is this genre somewhat prejudicially known as arena rock.
opened proceedings with a 45 minute greatest hits set and, as usual,
their energy and vitality won over a crowd who may have been less
familiar with their material than the other two bands.
that for me has always given Styx appeal was the use of different lead
vocalists so the high pitched Tommy Shaw, ever youthful at 57,
contributed 'Too Much Time on My Hands', complete with a rather optimistic
audience singalong just two songs in, and 'Blue Collar Man', and
co-guitarist James ‘JY' Young the rather grittier 'Miss America', which
may have shocked casual fans weaned on 'Babe'.
Gowan meantime ensured Dennis De Young was not missed: he is a natural
showman, delivering 'Lady' from the top of his keyboard before moving out
front to sing, and spinning his keyboard around.
Yet he is also a
talented player - check out for proof some fantastically dated
synthesiser solos during ooling Yourself which also saw founder
bassist Chuck E Panozzo making an appearance.
for me was 'Come Sail Away with some beautiful singing by Lawrence over
a piano intro before the song kicked in with its over the top pomp feel,
while 'Renegade' with its looser, jamming groove ended an excellent set.
Hopefully the response will whet their appetite for a return to the UK.
The meat in
the melodic rock sandwich was Foreigner who, just as at High
Voltage last year, really got the crowd going with a series of simple
but memorable rock anthems, opening with the 1-2 punch of 'Double Vision'
and 'Head Games', making light of Mick Jones' guitar cutting out.
Hansen, in a Union Jack singlet, was once again a charismatic frontman
and managed to get most of the Wembley floor to its feet for 'Cold as
Ice', complete with its twin keyboards, and even ended up deep in the
crowd at one point.
member Mick was allowed one indulgence, singing much of 'Starrider'
(complete with flute solo from Tom Gimbel) and playing an extended solo,
but wisely they did not risk losing momentum by playing new songs, and
instead it was hits all the way - from 'Feels Like the First Time', and
'Urgent' with Tom's sax solo, then Kelly asking the crowd to hold the
person next to them during 'I Wanna Know What Love Is'.
But that was
a temporary diversion into balladry as Mick's riffing to 'Hot Blooded'
called to mind his anecdote of how Johnny Rotten was blown away by that
song in punk's heyday, while 'Juke Box Hero', complete with a cartoon of
the character in question, closed an hour long set with a substantial
jam loosely built around the original.
impressive Styx and Foreigner had been, it had been Journey's new
found popularity that made this tour possible, and anticipation was
running high when they came on stage at 9:30.
an ace straight away, Jonathan Cain's unmistakable keyboard intro
heralding the classic 'Separate Ways'. Arnel Pineda meantime has had a
change of image since their last UK tour - shorter hair, tattoos and
somewhat less manic on stage while still energetic - but his singing was
outstanding throughout and the biggest compliment I can pay is that I
did not find myself constantly comparing him to Steve Perry.
first part of the set was somewhat underwhelming. A quartet of new
numbers were sprinkled among the classics during the first hour - 'Edge
of a Moment', 'Resonate', 'City of Hope' and 'Chain of Love'.
played the album on heavy rotation in the week before, I was enjoying
them and in a live setting discovering passages I hadn't fully
appreciated, but I think I was in a small minority. To most they were
unfamiliar, the album deliberately avoids the more telegraphed
commercial side of the band, and they broke up the momentum of the gig
the sound was somewhat muddy, and although Journey have always been much
heavier live than on record, Neal Schon was at times overplaying as he
showed off his technical skill and the unthinkable thought was that the
Journey sound was insufficiently melodic. Compared to Foreigner and
Styx, there was also less of an emphasis on directly engaging the
highlights were never far away - 'Send Her My Love' made a welcome
reappearance with some beautifully smooth singing from Arnel, 'Lights'
demanded that arms be swayed in the air, and the likes of 'Ask the Lonely'
and 'Stone in Love' have irresistible, soaring choruses.
evidence of 'Open Arms' and 'Faithfully', it is the ballads where Arnel
really shines, but he is not the only singer in the band capable of
hitting the high notes, as aggressive drummer Deen Castronovo proved on
a version of 'Mother, Father' which also featured some consummate
Neal cranked out the riff to 'Wheel in the Sky', it was as if someone had
lit the spark and the remainder of the gig was a riotous cavalcade of AOR classics - after
'Be Good to Yourself', with Jonathan's prominent
keyboards and Neal's guitar solo playing off against one another, and
'Faithfully', came the moment that most of the crowd, young and old alike,
had been waiting for - 'Don't Stop Believin''.
used the song now is, it is still a magic moment to hear Journey play it
live, all the more surprising then that there were still some in the
balcony still slumped in their seats.
they swept straight into the equally irresistible 'Anyway You Want It',
with Neal reeling off one solo after another. In fact, with time running
out, that might have been a better encore than a rather bluesy 'Lovin
Touchin Squeezin' which ended the night, especially with the time gone
11pm and people filing out.
On the way
out, people were inevitably making comparisons and naming their
favourites on the night, but for a price of £45, to hear a series of
classics delivered with such quality and professionalism, all of us who
love great melodic rock music were the winners tonight.
Review by Andy
Photos by Lee
I can only
echo Andy's comments about quality and professionalism (Manchester
MEN, 8 June 2011), first with Styx and then Foreigner.
Fittingly, Mick Jones' assistant draped him in a towel as he left the
stage, almost like a triumphal exiting boxer.
recent resurgence is not least a tribute to the quiet Englishman's
perseverance through difficult years but his legacy of superior melodic
rock is now done real justice. Here Kelly Hansen and his cohorts
extract the soul of these songs, and they are sounding even better,
especially a stellar version of 'Waiting For A Girl Like You' and the
colossal 'Juke Box Hero'.
one niggle, Foreigner played very safe by sticking to the "hits" and it
almost seems criminal that they played nothing off 'Can't Slow Down'.
Journey didn't fall into this trap, mixing freely tracks from the new
album with the 'Dirty Dozen'. Whilst 'Eclipse' may yet split the
fans just like 'Raised On Radio' there is no doubt that it marks a
return to form, even if heavier in places; but probably all the better
needed convincing, Arnel Pineda has stamped his mark on the core setlist
and indeed the new album whilst Messrs Cain, Valory, Castronovo and
Schon look like the eternal warriors of AOR and long may they continue.
(Manchester, 8 June)
The Untold Story of Journey
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