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Concert Reviews:
Journey, Foreigner, Night Ranger leave fans still believin' at DTE

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- There are rock 'n' roll moments that resonate more deeply in the Detroit metro area than anywhere else -- Bob Seger name-checking Woodward Avenue, Kid Rock celebrating "summertime in nothern Michigan," Ted Nugent snarling about tracking game in the regional wild.

And Journey singing about the non-existent South Detroit.

That particular Moment came at the end of the group's main set Sunday night (July 31) at a sold-out DTE Energy Music Theatre, and it had the expected seismic impact -- even moreso than at sporting events. It didn't matter that the guy who originally sang it (Steve Perry) hasn't been in the band for more than a decade; it was still the capper to an 80-minute show that reconnected Journey to a city that had become an adopted second home well before "Don't Stop Believin' " hit the Top 10 30 years ago.

On Sunday, however, it was just one of many 70s and early 80s rock radio hits pumped out at DTE by Journey and tour mates Foreigner and Night Ranger -- the latter of which boasts as many founding members (three) in its current lineup as Journey and Foreigner combined. From the beach balls to the smell of pot wafting through the pavilion to inebriated exuberance of a crowd that included boomers -- including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder -- reliving their youth and their children seeing Guitar Hero and Rock Band avatars come to life, the show had an old-school Big Rock Show feel that even today's biggest alternative and rap acts don't quite recreate.

Cheerfully embracing its role as warm-up act, Night Ranger made the most of its 30 minutes on stage, lightly touching on its new album, "Somewhere in California," and covering Damn Yankees' "High Enough" (singer-bassist Jack Blades is in both bands) before kicking into its big hits. "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" included bits of the Eagles' "Hotel California" and Deep Purple's "Highway Star," while Journey drummer Dean Castronovo took over the kit to allow Kelly Keagy to sing "Sister Christian" out front. U.S. flags decorated the stage for the set-ending "(You Can Still) Rock in America."

Foreigner, celebrating its 35th anniversary as a band and the 30th anniversary of its "4" album, opted against playing anything from its last album -- 2009's "Can't Slow Down" -- instead focusing on heyday hits from 1977-84. At this point a very good tribute band led by founder Mick Jones and fronted by Kelly Hansen -- who jumped into the crowd and up the aisles on several occasions -- the sextet played convincing renditions of singles such as "Double Vision," "Cold As Ice" and "Head Games," as well as the ballads "Waiting For a Girl Like You" and "I Want to Know What Love Is" and extended versions of "Feels Like the First Time" and "Juke Box Hero."

Journey, meanwhile, does have a new album to promote -- "Eclipse" -- and its harder-edged flavor rubbed off on the quintet's 14-song set. Its ballads were certainly there -- including "Send Her My Love," "Lights," the still-cloying-after-all-these-years "Open Arms" and "Faithfully" -- but Journey kept the energy throttle on high throughout the show. "Separate Ways," "Ask the Lonely," the new "City of Hope" and "Only the Young" provided propulsive opening, while "Wheel in the Sky" was beefed up with Neal Schon's guitar solos and a harmonica break by keyboardist-guitarist Jonathan Cain. Filipino frontman Arnel Pineda, on his second visit to the area with Journey, was more confident this time around, although he still hasn't grasped how to project to an entire amphitheater, focusing mostly on the front rows.

"Don't Stop Believin' " was, of course, a roof-raising zenith, while the single encore "Any Way You Want It" brought things to an charged conclusion.

But now that Journey has more firmly established Pineda in Perry's place (after a couple of other singers in-between), it's maybe time for Journey to make some changes in its touring strategy. The group has enough its to fill a much longer set, and it left many of its fan favorites on the bench Sunday. Three heritage acts makes for good value on a show, of course, but here's guessing that fans might prefer a little more Journey, even if it means a more traditional two-act bill. Just sayin'....

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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