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Concert Reviews:
Journey, Def Leppard, Pretenders bring the 80s back at Comerica Park

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Saturday, July 14, 2018

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DETROIT -- If you craved a concise survey of commercial rock during the early and mid-80s, few places were better than Comerica Park on Friday night, July 13.

Though the bands in question -- Journey, Def Leppard and the Pretenders -- have certainly made plenty of music outside those parameters, the show was a testament to the enduring work each made between 1980-87, from the latter's first four albums to monster-selling releases by Journey ("Escape," "Frontiers") and Def Leppard ("Pyromania," "Hysteria"). The vast majority of the combined 41 songs came from that era, and the Comerica crowd of 35,000 or celebrated their bulletproof, enduring appeal despite the sweltering summer heat.

"I know it's hot, but who wants to dance?" the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde said before "Don't Get Me Wrong," and plenty in the fist-pumping throng were willing to join her.

For the San Francisco-formed Journey, any Detroit show is a kind of homecoming; The city supported the group early and often, so much so that its first live album, "Captured," was recorded partly at the old Cobo Arena. And, of course, the group's "Don't Stop Believin'" -- which closed the night with a shower of confetti and streamers did put the non-existent South Detroit on the map.

Guitarist Neal Schon saluted that long and still-loving relationship during the sextet's 15-song, 90-minute show, a romp that quieted for ballads only a couple of times ("Lights," "Open Arms" (during which a couple in the 13th row got engaged) and "Faithfully") and focused instead on uptempo fare such as "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)," "only The Young," "Stone In Love," the bluesy "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'," "Wheel In The Sky" and more. With four of five members from those 80s glory days still in the lineup Journey played in tight, practiced lockstep, and if Arnel Pineda's voice showed a bit of tour wear 'n' tear it was actually to good effect; The frenetic frontman sounded a bit less like Steve Perry and a bit more like someone who SOUNDS like Steve Perry this time out. though he still kept, er, faithfully close to the original melodies.

Schon, keyboardist-guitarist Jonathan Cain and drummer Steve Smith all took spotlight solos, the latter's a particularly fine display of his jazz roots, complete with nimble stick tricks. Journey offered a couple of deeper digs into its catalog -- "Wildest Dream" from 2006's "Revelation" and "La Do Da" from 1978's "Infinity" -- but mostly stuck to what it new the crowd came for.

So did Def Leppard, with nine of the 15 songs from its hour and 25 minute show hailing from those two Diamond-certified albums. A network of sub-woofers shook the stadium with the brawny chug of "Rocket" and the quintet was off to the races, like Journey keeping the ballads largely at bay and focusing on its metal-flavored brand of hard rock -- and even then the likes of "Love Bites" and "Bringin' On The Heartbreak" carried as much oomph as any of the heavier fare in the group's set.

Def Leppard -- whose most recent concert video was filmed at the DTE Energy Music Theatre -- did go acoustic, successfully, for "Two Steps Behind," but as the sun dipped behind the horizon the group had Comerica rocking through anthems such as "Foolin'," "Animal," "Let's Get Rocked," "Armageddon It," "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and the encore duo "Rock Of Ages" and "Photograph." Frontman Joe Elliott promised "there will be a next time," and the fans in front of him made it clear that can't come soon enough.

And if the Pretenders, who after all hail from Britain's punk and New Wave scenes of the late 70s, seemed like an odd fit next to the co-headliners, Hynde and company countered any doubts with an adventurous 45 minutes that showed the group has hits of its own ("Back On The Chain Gang," "My City Was Gone," "I'll Stand By You," "Middle Of The Road") and could deliver a solid set without its very biggest single, "Brass In Pocket." But deeper cuts such as "Cuban Slide" and "Bad Boys Get Spanked" more than held their own, while an opening couplet from the group's latest album "Alone," proved the Pretenders are still a potent concern beyond its 35-year-plus laurels.

Comerica Park rocks once again on Saturday, July 14, with the Zac Brown Band and others, but that package will have to push to surpass, or even equal, the crowd-pleasing party that took place on Friday

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