April 29, 2015
The Joint - Hard Rock Hotel
Las Vegas, NV USA
Review by Dave Gray
Photos by Stephy Hayward
Journey Electrifies Sin City
Electric. That one word might describe what the band Journey's opening night at Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel and Casino was to the faithful. On the first night of a nine show residency at The Joint, Journey performed their greatest hits and some surprise cuts to a sold out crowd at perhaps the best rock venue in the USA . From the opener "Any Way You Want It" until the ender "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin" the stage was full of energy. I wasn't outside, but I am quite sure the Las Vegas strip lights went out or at least flickered a bit when the band took the stage. The incredible sound, intense LED lights, psychedelic video, motion effects, and modern day technology used on this night was something like I have never seen before by any band, on any stage.
I read online that every night of the nine shows will be different; the set lists will be comprised of different songs, some greatest hits, some tracks they've never played before live, etc., so don't take this review as a spoiler. After the opening number, the band didn't let up, performing " Separate Ways " and "Be Good to Yourself". The band played a few tracks from the most recent effort Eclipse, including "City of Hope" and "Ritual" and from the prior CD Revelation "Change for the Better," but most of the set was built on songs from the 1970's and 1980's. "Only the Young," "La Do Da" and "Escape" were especially good tonight, and the backdrop images displayed album art from the past, in a cool new way.
Guitarist Neal Schon performed extended solos on some tracks and preceded "Stone in Love" with a cool solo. Displaying at least four different guitars, it was really great to see and hear that the 61 year-old rock veteran still has it. Amazing speed and sustain, blistering solos, perfect tone, all really showcase his title as a Guitar God. Drummer Deen Castronovo is so aggressive throughout, and to combine his drumming skills with vocals during "Mother, Father" is simply amazing. Keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Jonathan Cain did a great medley of recognizable piano tracks that he'd composed before the song "Who's Crying Now," which should hopefully let fans realize that he writes a majority of the music for this band. Arnel Pineda has been the singer with this band for over seven years now, and he provides the same spark that he did seven years ago, hardly staying in one spot for one second, constantly jumping, fist-bumping, and singing while running all over the stage floor. It was a nice surprise to see him sing Infinity's "Opened the Door". Bassist Ross Valory also acted as somewhat the MC tonight, introducing a few songs and band members, and correcting an error in the set list. (it is the first night of the residency, you know, so still some kinks to work out, or perhaps that's the fun of it!)
The greatest hits performances tonight included "Faithfully," "Don't Stop Believin'," "Wheel in the Sky" and "Lights" where very cool still and moving images of San Francisco 's fog rolled over the bay area city in the background. As most every song concluded, some cool image from the original album art was being displayed in the background, either split up between LED lights, or redesigned in a mod way, to perhaps help you remember where you were when you heard these tracks originally. I also recommend staying after the set comes to an end, as there are a lot of great images displayed of band members, current and former.
There are eight more shows at the spring residency in Vegas, it ends on May 16. According to Neal Schon, the set list should change every night. The venue is one of the best in the world to see a rock show; amazing lights, great acoustics, incredible sound. And with rock legends Journey living here for the next two-plus weeks, I am just glad that I'm not paying the light bill.