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Concert Review - Journey in Birmingham with Foreigner & Styx
June 08, 2011

There will have been plenty of melodic rock fans pinching themselves at the LG Arena last to make sure they were not dreaming.

Could this really be three giants of the American AOR scene on stage in front of them, three bands that pretty much define the very meaning of melodic rock?

Well, yes it could. And it was a night that proved that if you, ahem, don't stop believing, dreams really can come true.

First off were Styx, with Tommy Shaw and James JY Young leading proceedings as they powered their way through a criminally short set which still packed a mighty punch.

Miss America, Come Sail Away and Renegade were stand-out moments, with the absence of their sickly sweet ballad Babe the only thing thing that might have had all but the die-hards scratching their heads. In truth it hasn't been a part of Styx's set for some time and was not missed.

Foreigner singer Kelly Hansen took total command of the LG Arena as he bounced on to the stage. He is truly an inspired replacement for original singer Lou Gramm, possessing a mighty set of pipes as well as an utterly infectious stage presence, the perfect foil for the group's uber cool leader and guitarist, the English-born Mick Jones. Hansen even found time for a walkabout into the crowd.

As well as the rapturously-received ballads I Want To Know What Love Is and Waiting For A Girl Like You, Foreigner proved they could rock out too, with Feels Like The First Time, Hot Blooded and Juke Box Hero hitting the mark.

Talking of heroes, Journey have a new one. Their Phillipines-born singer Arnel Pineda has clearly grown into his role over the past four years and was on a mission to win hearts and minds as he led the band through possibly the greatest back-catalogue in melodic rock.

While lead guitarist Neal Schon is the beating heart of the band, Pineda brings along a youthful vitality and enthusiasm, a non-stop energy and a voice that is as near as is humanly possible a perfect replacement for Journey's much-missed singer Steve Perry.

Kicking things off with Jonathan Cain's keyboard intro to Separate Ways (Worlds Apart), Journey raised the roof with both singles and fan favourites, from the ballads Open Arms and Faithfully, to Stone In Love, Lights and Wheel In The Sky. Drummer Deen Castronovo impressed as ever when he took over on lead vocals for a spine tingling Mother, Father.

Three tracks from the band's new album Eclipse, were aired, with the single City Of Hope - dedicated to Pineda's hometown of Manilla - showing that Journey have not lost the knack of crafting a perfect and uplifting, melodic rock gem.

Of course, while the night was about more than just one song, when that song did arrive it almost lifted the roof of the arena out of sight. It's easy to forget that the chorus of Don't Stop Believin' only appears at the very end of the song after a mighty long tease. Post Glee it was time for Journey - and their fans - to reclaim melodic rock's greatest classic, and both did so in magnificent style.

After the last song of the main set, Anyway You Want It, Journey returned for their traditional encore, Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin', and a chance for the fans to sing themselves hoarse one last time.

Hopefully any fans who think last night's concert was just a dream have this review to prove that it really did happen. And then some.

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