JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

September 24, 2011
Gexa Energy Pavilion
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David Huff
Photos by Barry Bond

Journey - Journey, Foreigner, Night Ranger

Journey's "Eclipse" Tour

If you wanted a glimpse into rock's melodic past, the combination of Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger was a dream line-up that certainly accomplished the goal. Before the '80s was overrun with spandex, makeup and big hair bands, these pop rockers produced some of the music world's most enduring classics. The very fact this trio of artists were playing to a sold-out, multi-generational crowd of over 20,000 people, was a testament to the staying power of their timeless creations.

First order of business was Night Ranger. The group's core - bassist / lead singer Jack Blades, guitarist Brad Gillis and drummer / vocalist Kelly Keagy - have aged quite well. Blades voice was on key and vibrant. Gillis is a brilliant guitarist who can hold his own with anyone. And then there's Keagy. The drummer's most significant contribution to Night Ranger was their time honored classic, "Sister Christian". It also inadvertently hung the power ballad moniker on the band they would never quite shake off. Tonight, however, it really didn't matter.

This particular outfit is alive and kicking today because of the body of work they produced in a four-year period from 1982 thru 1985. During that time they sold over six million albums, and literally laid the groundwork for survival 30 years later. Tonight, Jack, Brad and Kelly started things off with "Lay It on Me" from their recently released Somewhere in California record. The bulk of their songs this evening consisted of hits from the band's first two albums, Dawn Patrol and Midnite Madness. Mysteriously, nothing from their most successful recording, Seven Wishes, was performed. Instead, Blades opted for the hit single he wrote for the Damn Yankees, "Coming of Age".

Next up was Foreigner. Honestly, I was shocked when I got a really good look at the band standing on stage. Every musician performing in the group was truly a ‘foreigner.' There was absolutely no original members playing the brilliant songs that Mick Jones and Lou Gramm created. It took me a moment to get over this slight of hand trick perpetrated by Jones. Apparently he wasn't feeling well enough to perform, and honestly, no one in the crowd really cared. They sang along with singer Kelly Hansen from Hurricane, and cheered Dokken's Jeff Pilson as he posed and attempted to connect with the crowd. He didn't have to work that hard.

"Double Vision" began the audience's hour long love fest with all things Foreigner. They crowd sang a long mightily as vocalist Kelly Hansen (formerly of Hurricane) led the masses from one classic tune to another. Honestly, the moment Hansen's lips uttered the words ‘Feeling down ‘n' dirty / Feeling kinda mean" it didn't matter who was standing on the stage. This audience was totally in to it. Tonight, this version of Foreigner performed everything from the real Foreigner's 1982 10-song compilation disc, Records. The only tune missing was "Long, Long Way from Home" which was replaced by "I Want to Know What Love Is" from '84's Agent Provocateur album.

Without a doubt, these six musicians were the best Foreigner tribute band I have ever heard. Their individual playing was spot on. Mix that in with the kaleidoscope of images constantly rotating on the giant L.E.D. screen behind the drummer, and it really did ‘feel like the first time' you ever saw this band in concert. A significant portion of this crowd wasn't born when Foreigner began its phenomenal eight-year run of multi-platinum albums from 1977 to 1984. This show gave them a peak at what they missed.

My only complaint, aside from the band's DNA, was a slight one. Why extend the encore, "Juke Box Hero" when you could have easily slipped in another Foreigner classic like "That Was Yesterday" or even "Rev on the Red Line". But you know, this band is what it is, and they really did do justice to all the great compositions they performed this evening. Despite my initial misgivings, I often found myself singing along to the tunes. The bottom line was this. Everyone had a good time, so why complain.

This night for me, however, was all about Journey. I had not seen them perform in concert since the 1986 Raised on Radio tour. The reason for this quarter of a century snub was a simple one for me. Without the signature voice of Steve Perry breathing life into the ageless music, the songs just weren't Journey. The hoopla surrounding the incredible vocal skills of singer Arnel Pineda was something I just had to see for myself. I'm happy to report, I was delightfully surprised, and relieved.

Pineda was everything he was billed to be - the exact sounding voice of Steve Perry. The world pretty much knows by now how the diminutive singer from Manila found his way to San Francisco four years ago. One night Neal Schon typed into the YouTube search engine "Journey Singers" and Arnel's video popped up. A very surprised Schon was so taken by Pineda's vocal prowess he reached out to him. Shortly after convincing Arnel that Journey was actually interested in him, the singer was flown to the U.S. After his audition, the job was his.

For my self and others in attendance this evening, it was very important to witness firsthand what Schon saw in Pineda that convinced him Arnel was the man for the job. When Journey launched into their first song, "Separate Ways", it became abundantly clear why Arnel was up there singing on stage. As the song ended, I clapped and cheered. The sound of the Journey I had grown up loving was back.

Neal Schon's work on the guitar this evening was not only flawless, but a bit inspiring as well. Without a doubt, he is the most underrated guitarist in the world. His signature style of playing, along with Perry's vocals, identifies a Journey tune immediately. The solo's he created over the years for all the timeless pieces of music this packed house was about to hear was nothing short of brilliant. Tonight, as I noted earlier, Schon was on fire. My bet is it had something to do with a particular someone watching from the audience.

Before the show, all photographers had to sign a release form stating they would not shoot any crowd shots from the pit in front of the stage. Neal's controversial love interest, the previously un-kidnapped, now runaway Real Housewife of D.C. star Michaele Salahi, was among the cheering throngs welcoming the band to Dallas. Apparently she did a good job blending in, because I've yet to see any cell phone shots of the White House crasher posted on the Internet.

I'm relieved to say that Journey's ‘wheel in the sky' is turning proudly once again. And I say that without taking anything away from Journey's previous singers, Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Soto. This particular band just needed a voice like Arnel Pineda's to breathe new life into its wounded pride. Interestingly enough, if you put a long black, shoulder length wig on the 5'1 singer, he could have easily passed for Steve Perry his singing was that spot on.

Journey's signature hit, "Don't Stop Believin'" has also been instrumental in the band's spike in popularity. Thanks to two stellar programs, television's Glee and the final HBO episode of The Sopranos, Journey is riding an all-time high heading into its fifth decade as a group. Band founders Schon and Ross Valory would certainly agree. And for the 20,000 strong that was singing there praises along with Arnel, it was an evening of entertainment everyone will look forward to duplicating again.

Journey Set List:
Separate Ways
Ask the Lonely
Send Her My Love
City of Hope
Faithfully
Stone in Love
Escape
Lights
Wheel in the Sky
Open Arms
La Do Da
Be Good to Yourself
Any Way You Want It
Encore: Don't Stop Believin'
Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'

Foreigner Set List:
Double Vision
Head Games
Cold as Ice
Waiting for a Girl Like You
Dirty White Boy
Feels Like the First Time
Urgent
I Want to Know What Love Is
Hot Blooded
Encore: Juke Box Hero

Night Ranger Set List:
Lay It On Me
Sing Me Away
Coming of Age (Damn Yankees cover)
When You Close Your Eyes
Don't Tell Me You Love Me
Sister Christian
(You Can Still) Rock in America