Review: Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger hold '80s revival in Tampa
For people who consider the current lineup Journey some sort of musical joke. For those who think the '80s revival is over. Consider this. About 20,000 very diverse fans were on hand Saturday night to sing along with every song that Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger could crank out. If there was an empty seat at the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre, I didn't see it. I was too busy weeping during Sister Christian, playing air saxophone during Urgent and frantically banging my fingers on the seat in front of me during Be Good to Yourself. The music of the '80s, my friends, is alive and well and selling concert tickets by the tens of thousands.
In the height of their popularly, I'm not sure Journey enjoyed this kind of passionate response from fans. And if the years have slowed Neal Schon and company, it didn't show this particular night. I give the credit to frontman Arnel Pineda, who channels the voice as well as the spirit of long departed Steve Perry. Here are some highlights from Saturday's show in Tampa.
THEY CAN STILL ROCK IN AMERICA: Night Ranger came on stage 10 minutes early, so fans arriving on time probably missed the opening number. No sweat. It was off the new album. But if there's a harder working band than Night Ranger these days, please point them out to me. Nobody strives to entertain like Jack Blades, Brad Gills and Kelly Keagy. Sure, their stage banter seems a bit rehearsed, but you can't help but smile anyway. They ran through When You Close Your Eyes, Sing Me Away and even a surprisingly satisfying take of High Enough from Blades' Damn Yankees catalog during their short set. But of course, they brought the house down with Sister Christian. Is it possible to sit still when you hear that song live?
JUKE BOX HEROES: Mick Jones was "ailing" on Saturday night so the lineup of Foreigner was pretty much sans any original members. But, with all due respect to Lou Gramm and Mick, Foreigner has never been a band that relied too much on names. Their lineup changes each year, but the sound remains exactly the same. On Saturday, it was one hit after another -- no new material -- and the crowd couldn't get enough. Double Vision, Head Games, Cold as Ice. You name it, Kelly Hansen (who looks and sounds like the love child of Steven Tyler and Mr. Gramm, if that was biologically possible) rolled through it. But Urgent -- never one of my favorites -- takes on an incredible depth when played live. Credit the sax playing, which could have cut glass on Saturday. Juke Box Hero -- "Got stars in his eyes" ... I still hear it bouncing between ear drums -- was the proper encore. Journey had to be sweating backstage by this point.
STILL STONE IN LOVE: Journey hit the stage with Separate Ways, and quickly rolled through the big catalog hits. But I was surprised by the unusual picks. When You Love a Woman, one of Steve Perry's final songs with the band from 1996, made the set list and sounded great. Likewise, the usually obscure Ask the Lonely (from 1983's Two of Kind soundtrack) was there. I'm going to be a little critical because I feel so strongly about Journey; they should have picked a couple more tunes from 1981's Escape, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
THE NEW TUNES: Journey has a new album, so that means new tunes in the show. Thankfully it was only two songs; sorry, guys, not my favorite album. City of Hope is likeable enough until a far-too-long, self-indulgent guitar solo by Neal Schon saps its impact. Edge of the Moment might have been the night's most forgettable song. That being said ...
YES, I LOVED THE SHOW: There's very little to complain about at a Journey show. Neal has never played better, quite the feat since he's now approaching the ripe age of 96. (Actually, he's only 57. Long live Neal Schon!) Singer Arnel Pineda went through at least two shirts this hot Florida night; maybe the sweat shorted out his microphone because he voice disappeared a couple times. Keyboardist Jonathan Cain teased the audience repeatedly with short solos before launching into Faithfully and Open Arms. Bassist Ross Valory was typically stoic, making his job seem much easier than it must be. And drummer Deen Castronovo probably lost 10 pounds in sweat this night. It might have been night to give Deen the chance to sing a tune or two -- his voice rivals Arnel's -- but time was short in this crowded bill.
THE ENCORES: I've never heard an explosion of delight like the one that erupted when Don't Stop Believin' began as the first encore. If you're still unconvinced that this is one of the most special songs of the last 30 years, you're just not much of a music fan. Lovin' Touchin Squeezin' became a rompy finale, especially after the news broke earlier in the week that Real Housewives of D.C. "star" Michaela Salahi had come running back to old beau Neal. Was Michaela in Tampa on Saturday? Not as far as I could tell. But Neal did have a wicked smile on his face this night.
Let's face it. We all did.