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Guest review: Journey, Pat Benatar, Loverboy at Montana State Fair



Publicity photo by Eric SausedaJourney is burning up the touring roads again as if there's an approaching expiration date on their career. (Sorry, haters, but there's probably not.) But the real buzz this year is coming from their touring partners: Pat Benatar and Loverboy. Chances are this tour is coming to an arena near you soon, so thankfully our Wisconsin correspondent of Stuck in the '80s, Michelle Willits, provides this review from a recent show in Montana of all places. (She grew up and attended college there, so it's not random.) Here's what she saw:

With nearly four solid hours of hits, a combined concert of '80s greats Loverboy, Pat Benatar and Journey provided plenty of "I remember when I heard that for the first time" moments.

More than 6,100 people attended the Aug. 1 concert in Great Falls, Mont., at the Montana State Fair. Realize that my hometown stages major concerts in a hockey rink with less-than-great acoustics. The arena also is where I saw my first concert of Quarterflash opening for Rick Springfield.

There was no messing around: Loverboy took the stage precisely at 8 and delivered a tight, solid set of songs including "Hot Girls in Love," "Lovin' Every Minute of It," and "The Kid Is Hot Tonight." Frontman Mike Reno, rocking the headband but without the red leather pants, still has a fine voice as the group finished with "Working for the Weekend."

Benatar and her husband of 30 years, Neil "Spyder" Giraldo, presented a quieter, yet still powerful set. Easily the best of the three groups acoustically, Benatar gladly pulled the bigger hits from her catalog.

Dressed in a long, black coat and sweet boots, she grabbed a stool to sing "We Belong," acknowledging, "We're old. We need to sit down."

She also made sure to note that Giraldo was the first guitar player ever to appear on MTV because her video "You Better Run" followed the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" on the fledgling cable network.

Every shoulder in the arena shimmied in homage to the "Love Is a Battlefield" video, and they were allowed two songs for an encore.

A lengthy set change was required to reveal the white-on-black Journey logo on the stage floor, the numerous video screens, and Deen Castronovo's monstrous drum kit.

I am in the pro-Steve Perry camp. Even though I have heard Arnel Pineda on You Tube, I was still skeptical. Closing my eyes, I can tell he has pipes. However, his stage presence was more along the lines of an "America's Got Talent" audition-a lot of mic flipping, running back and forth across the stage, and mid-air kick jumps.

My college roommate made the best point: Loverboy and Benatar admitted and embraced their longevity. Journey, however, came across as a really good Journey cover band.

Don't get me wrong -- it was pretty cool. You got to hear just about any hit from the Journey jukebox without stage banter: "Any Way You Want It," "Ask the Lonely," "Only the Young," "Chain Reaction," "Be Good to Yourself," "Open Arms," "Wheels in the Sky," "Faithfully," "Send Her My Love," and "Stone in Love."

Guitarist and original member Neal Schon broke the string of radio-friendly hits with a lengthy, lengthy interpretation of Jimi Hendrix's "Star-Spangled Banner."

Watching Castronovo use every square inch of his drum kit was enthralling.

I feared for Pineda's life as he leaned out to high-five audience members--his slight frame easily could have been pulled off the stage by a particularly enthusiastic fan.

During "Lights," the audience waved cell phones and glow sticks, and "City of Hope" and "Escape" relied heavily on the video screens behind the band.

Thankfully, "Don't Stop Believin'" was not the band's final song that night. The powerful, omnipresent pop culture anthem was way too easy of a finish with its confetti cannons. Instead, the crowd roared at Jonathan Cain's opening piano riff for "Separate Ways."

We in "Stuck in the '80s" nation understand that our demographic is, to politely put it, aging.

But nothing proves that like seeing a mass of people on a fieldhouse floor and spying a cane being waved above everyone's heads as we sing the "Nah, nah, na, nah, nah, na...Nah, nah, na, nah, nah, na...Nah, nah, na, nah, na, na, na, na, na, na, naah" of "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'"--the final song of the evening.

[Last modified: Friday, August 10, 2012 10:07am]


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