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Journey, Foreigner, Night Ranger leave fans 'Believin' at Rio Tinto
by Doug Fox - Daily Herald
July 25, 2011

It's one down, 45 to go for the Journey, Foreigner, Night Ranger tour.

What will no doubt prove to be one of the top packages of the summer, the "Eclipse" tour debuted under beautiful skies and bright lights to a large crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Thursday night. If there's one thing the kickoff concert proved, "(You Can Still) Rock in America," a mantra that hundreds of thousands of fans will no doubt relearn for themselves as the tour wends its way around the country for the next three months.

The trio of bands spread out a road map of some of the most popular songs of the 1970s and '80s over the course of the evening, with the entire production cruising through four hours of memories. By the sound of things, any of the lead singers could have turned vocals over the crowd at nearly any point in any song and frequently did with the masses not missing a word, let alone a beat. Night Ranger started things off, blistering through a 35-minute set that seemed way too short in comparison to the band's available catalog. Such, however, is the fate of drawing the short straw on a multi-act tour. Still, it seems like the production could find a way to give the Northern California-based band another 10-15 minutes on stage.

Night Ranger did take advantage of the time it had, however, as original members Jack Blades (bass and vocals), Kelly Keagy (drums and vocals) and Brad Gillis (guitars) frenetically led the band through well-known numbers like "Sing Me Away," "When You Close Your Eyes," "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," "Sister Christian" and the anthemic "(You Can Still) Rock in America." The band even found room for "Coming of Age," a hit by Damn Yankees, the early 1990s supergroup Blades was a part of during a hiatus from Night Ranger. One bonus for Night Ranger was it was the only band on the bill that has its original lead vocal lineup intact, with Blades and Keagy serving as the group's only lead vocal tandem from the beginning. Joel Hoekstra (guitars) and Eric Levy (keyboards) round out the current lineup.

Foreigner took the baton and completed the second leg of the night's rock relay, sprinting through 10 songs - every one a hit single in its day - in 65 minutes. Guitarist and co-founder Mick Jones may be the only original member left standing, but the rest of the group is so energetic and the tunes so infectious that it's nearly impossible not to just give in and enjoy the current lineup.

Jones's hook-laden, pulsating guitar riffs have always been one of the band's key drawing cards, a fact on full display Thursday in songs like "Double Vision," "Head Games," Dirty White Boy," "Feels Like the First Time," "Urgent," "Hot Blooded" and "Juke Box Hero." The British guitarist looked stately in a white shirt and dark vest combo, and also played the main keyboard parts in "Cold as Ice," "Waiting for a Girl Like You" and "I Want to Know What Love Is."

The second core element to the Foreigner sound, historically, was the highly recognizable vocals of Lou Gramm, who is no longer with the band. Kelly Hansen, the former Hurricane vocalist, however, has proven to be an admirable replacement. Hansen, an extremely energetic live performer, sounds similar enough to the former Foreigner frontman that the band's hits don't seem starkly different in concert, yet he puts enough of his own spin on things that it allows him to peek out of Gramm's large shadow. He's proven to be a key addition to the group, which is rounded out by ex-Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson, Tom Gimbel (guitars, sax), Mark Schulman (drums) and Michael Bluestein (keyboards).

The hits kept coming once Journey took the stage. While band members playfully refer to their stable of must-play classics as "The Dirty Dozen," it was obvious after Thursday's set that they are shortchanging themselves. There were no fewer than 14 chart risers in the band's 17-song performance - the other three being numbers off the brand new "Eclipse" record, so give them time - and there were easily another handful that could have been substituted in. It's an enviable dilemma for any band to face.

It's been four years since Arnel Pineda took over lead vocal duties, and it was obvious on this night, his second pass through Salt Lake City, that he has fully grown into the role of band voice and frontman. Guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain may still be the primary shapers of the Journey sound, but Pineda delivers an uncanny mime of Steve Perry, the once-trademark voice on nearly all Journey classics. (Former keyboardist Gregg Rolie sang lead on a few older hits.)

Pineda and Schon were the primary focal points on stage - well, in addition to the eye-popping lights, lasers and video board displays. Pineda is a bundle of energy, running around the stage, slapping hands and interacting with fans, and jumping through the air while bringing songs to a thunderous conclusion.

Schon, one of rock's most gifted guitarists, frequently roamed the stage while throwing out searing melodic leads. One of the great guitar segments of the show included the transition from "Who's Cryin' Now," which features a memorable extended rideout solo, which segued into a two-minute solo showcase for Schon that in turn led into the opening power riff of "Stone in Love."

Cain's keyboards, of course, are another major factor for Journey, as evidenced in upbeat rockers like "Ask the Lonely," "Be Good to Yourself" and the ubiquitous "Don't Stop Believin' " as well as power ballads such as "Open Arms" and "Faithfully." The latter song was the only one that sounded noticeably different, as, for some reason, Pineda sang it in a lower register than the original version. Ross Valory (bass) and Deen Castronovo (drums) held down the bottom end, allowing everyone else to do their hit thing.

Among the band's other highlights were the show-opening "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)," "Send Her My Love," "Lights," "Wheel in the Sky," "Escape" and the evening-ending encore of "Any Way You Want It." The aforementioned three new songs - "City of Hope," "Edge of the Moment" and "Chain of Love" - also fit nicely into the set and were well received by the crowd.

But the steady stream of hits - from all three bands - clearly carried the night on this U.S. - opening performance, a fact that fans in the remaining 45 tour stops will undoubtedly attest to over the next 90 days.

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