Live: Journey at Cruzan Amphitheatre, September 18
|Photo by Alex Solca|
With Foreigner and Night Ranger
Cruzan Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Better than: Running off with a member of Styx.
Recently, the ultimate melodic rock powerhouse that is Journey has found itself riding the wave of a massive resurgence. Credit both in no small part to The Sopranos' final episode using 1981's "Don't Stop Believin'" and the made-for-Hollywood story of how the band located current lead singer Arnel Pineda. The city by the bay's gift to karaoke played to a massive crowd last night at West Palm Beach's Cruzan Amphitheatre.
Opening the show for Journey was fellow San Francisco band Night Ranger, featuring all three founding members and a smattering of new songs. Things got "motorin'" right on time as they kicked off the night with a track from their most recent release, Somewhere in California, "Lay it on Me." The new songs fit in well in the unfortunately stilted set of classics, which included a cover of frontman Jack Blades' former supergroup Damn Yankee's song "High Enough."
Following Night Ranger, classic-rock radio darlings Foreigner took the stage last night with literally zero original members. Even founding member and guitarist Mick Jones was absent as he has recently taken ill -- though it should have been expected from a band with a Spinal Tapesque history of 25 former members from 1976 to present.
They played all of their hits to a vastly seated audience, though the monster waiting room/elevator ballad "I Want to Know What Love Is" brought couples out of their seats to reenact the last dance of 1985's prom. The almost-Foreigner closed its show with "Juke Box Hero," which had the energy the rest of the set appeared to be lacking. Frontman Kelly Hansen does a great job of re-creating Lou Gramm's vocals and bears a notable resemblance to Steven Tyler. The band made sure to plug the fact that its new album is available specifically at Walmart, driving home the fact that our classic rock is now corporate-owned and -operated.
Being that this was a family-oriented show on a Sunday night, things moved along quickly between sets, and as soon as Foreigner cleared out, an apparition of shred appeared in the laser-light-laced fog of the stage, playing literally every note he could find on the neck of the guitar. Yes, it was TMZ's own Neal Schon, undoubtedly trying to impress his new/old extra creepy love interest, Micheale Salahi, with his fretboard mastery. Although she appeared onstage during Journey's Tampa performance on Saturday, we didn't spot her.
As Neal lit his strings ablaze, beach balls attacked the audience and small Filipino singer Arnel Pineda began his uncanny Steve Perry impersonations with "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)." His voice is so close to Perry's signature croon that most people would be hard-pressed to tell the difference on recording. It's made even better, in our opinion, by Pineda's animalistic stage presence, which was compared to a monkey by a nearby audience member.
The energetic Journey played all of its hits; however, being that this tour is in promotion of its new album, Eclipse, new songs were added to the set. The crowd was happy to give its opinion of the new numbers by sitting down in unison every time a new song began, then rising back up only for the hits. Schon looked upset while motioning for people to rise back to their feet during new song "City of Hope" -- a man obviously frustrated by the lack of acceptance for his recent work.
Much of the night was about Neal and his guitar playing. The extended solos brought some die-hard fans to their feet for applause, while others appeared bored by the former prodigy's virtuosic guitar work. He "jumped the shark" when, during one extended solo outing, he held the neck up to his mouth and blew gently upon the strings to make them ring out. The night came to a climax during the encore performance of "Don't Stop Believin'" -- and just like when you hear that song at a bar these days, people knew the evening had come to an end.
Random detail: During the Foreigner set, no one in our row stood, excluding one man decked out head to toe in NY Jets gear who was absolutely hell-bent on getting those around him to stand as well.
Personal bias: I hate it when bands go under their original name lacking the majority of original members.
Overheard: During one of Neal Schon's solos: "Come on! Let's go! How long do we have to hear this guy play guitar?"
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