August 25, 2012
Gexa Energy Pavilion
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David Huff
Photos by James Villa
Journey - Journey, Pat Benatar, Loverboy
For those of you reading this review that weren't 'raised on radio', but file sharing, downloading and YouTube instead, let me spell this out to you very simply. The decade of the '80s produced some of the greatest music ever created. Yes, you can give a compelling argument that the '70s was hands down the true era of rock, but radio was still adjusting to music on the FM side of the dial. It hit its full stride when Ronald Reagan became president in 1980, and never looked back. On this particular evening, three purveyors of the pop / rock sound that dominated the first half of that decade - Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy - were on full display in all their regal glory.
These artists created bodies of work that were relevant to witness in concert back then and a must see now. They represent a period in music history when concert tickets were cheap, but the music most definitely was not. Even more important is this one often overlooked point. The music of all three groups has definitely stood the test of time. That accomplishment alone made this triple bill a must see attraction on this hot and humid Saturday night. Loverboy would be the first act to bring back the memories.
It had been some 30 years since this Canadian outfit last toured with Journey. Both bands were on the road supporting new releases that history would show were their biggest selling albums ever (Loverboy's Get Lucky, Journey's Escape). The band's 35-minute show consisted of all their hits that are still radio staples today, including their iconic, bass thumping classic, "Turn Me Loose." Singer Mike Reno hasn't lost a note in his voice, and guitarist Paul Dean is still a force to be reckoned with. It was a perfect way to start the festivities.
Next up was the incomparable Pat Benatar. I swear this pixie powerhouse hasn't aged a bit the some 33 years she's been belting out hits. During her reign as the preeminent female rock vocalist in the world from 1980 thru 1983, there was no voice outside of Heart's Ann Wilson that could match her singing prowess. Today, Benatar and husband Neil Giraldo, (who's been with her from the beginning), do a great job making sure Pat's magnificent body of work still retains the same magic today that it had when it was first introduced.
It took about three songs for Benatar's voice to really warm up. When she skipped the high note in "Promises in the Dark" I started thinking this might night be a good night for her. Was I ever wrong! By the time this Grammy Award winning artist belted out "Hit Me with Your Best Shot," she was firing on all vocal cylinders. The crowd knew it too. As the sun went down, thousands rose up and stayed there to cheer what proved to be one hell of a show. By the time she finished "Love is a Battlefield," the audience literally demanded her to come back for an encore. After the final number, a very humble and beaming Pat Benatar walked off stage to thunderous applause. It was richly deserved.
As I was waiting for Journey to hit the stage, I glanced back to the lawn area of the amphitheater and saw nothing but a sea of humanity. I attributed this strong support of directly to the addition of Arnel Pineda on vocals. He can flat out duplicate the magical sound of former singer Steve Perry's voice, and that has resonated with Journey fans across the country. Pineda has breathed new life into the band's tremendous catalog of hits created during its magical run of seven albums released from 1978 to 1986. Tonight, every one of those albums was represented on the band's 19-song set list.
I'm not ashamed to say I love the music of Journey. The band holds a special place in the history of Jam Magazine for the access they granted us during their heyday in which they sold over 40 million albums worldwide. Yes, I was extremely ticked off that Steve Perry broke up the band leaving Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain and Ross Valory adrift for several years. It took a long, long time for the band to find the right singer to recapture the true spirit of Journey. Once they did, the band's fortunes have soared along with the voice they discovered.
Tonight, Journey would open and close the show with two songs off of the Evolution album, "Majestic" and "Lovin', Touchin' Squeezin'". In between, they would sandwich in several cuts from the Escape and Frontiers album. In an interesting side note, the band also performed two songs purposely left off Frontiers, "Ask the Lonely" and "Only the Young." The omission of those two compositions - the producer would not back Jonathan Cain's strong urging to include them - arguably would have made the recording equal, if not better, than its predecessor Escape. Instead of five classic Journey songs, the record ended up with three, of which only two were performed tonight, "Separate Ways" and "Faithfully." The great ballad, "Send Her My Love" didn't make the cut. Also missing in action was "Girl Can't Help It." I know it sounds like I'm nitpicking, but let's face it, those songs would have been much more enjoyable to hear than the aforementioned "Majestic" or "Le Do Da."
There's little doubt that Neal Schon is the most underrated guitarist in rock history. His signature sound is just as important to every Journey song as the vocals are. In fact, his style of playing lends a different 'voice' to the band's music that instantly identifies it as Journey. Last year, Schon received the wrong attention for his achievements when the runaway Housewife of D.C. fled into his 'open arms', but that's all behind him now. He was in excellent form this evening, and gave a sterling solo rendition of the national anthem that had everyone standing in appreciation when it was over.
There is a simple reason why bands who made their mark in the '80s, continue to pack in audiences 25, 30 years after hitting their creative peak. They connected with fans where it counted the most on an emotional level. The music they were writing and recording meant something to the public. When these bands were hitting their musical stride, music fans purchased the albums or cassettes and lived the music 24/7. The 'journey' the music took the listener on literally established a permanent bond that is just as strong today as it was back then. That lifelong love affair was in full swing throughout the three and a half hour show.
Year after year, Journey continues to draw large audiences with well-thought out '3 for 1' package events. The spectacles they tour behind remind audiences around the country what great music is all about. Today's Internet generation is slowly beginning to understand what their peers see in the old tunes they enjoy listening to. How long this affair can continue is anyone's guess. Let's just hope it does. If you think today's artists are going to be able to duplicate the musical feats these artists accomplished during their moments in the sun, forget it. That music has been downloaded into cyberspace. This music, thankfully, was meant to be celebrated 'anyway you want it, that's the way you need it.'