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Phoenix Review
by Michael Senft -
July 26, 2011

In 1983, it would have been the biggest show in the world - Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger, the two hottest arena rockers from each sides of the pond supported by an up-and-coming opening act that was dominating FM radio and MTV with a cautionary power ballad about teenage promiscuity.

But this is 2011.

Nearly 30 years of changing tastes have dulled the sparkle of early '80s arena rock, but this triple bill still managed to draw a huge crowd, braving wind and rain for an evening of nostalgia at the Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion on Sunday, July 24.

A lot of things have changed since these bands' big-hair heyday. The mullets are gone, replaced by bad dye jobs and extensions. Foreigner is touring without the guy who sang their biggest hits, Lou Gramm, while Journey is working the road without Steve Perry. But the adoring audience didn't care as they sang along to such Top 40 faves as "Feels Like the First Time" and "Separate Ways."

Night Ranger, the only band on the bill to still feature its original singers proved it could still "Rock in America" with a 30-minute opening set that touched on all its biggest hits, including "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" and the power ballad "Sister Christian." All that was missing was Alfred Molina playing air drums and an Asian kid setting off fireworks. The group even spotlighted a tune off its new album "Somewhere in California."

Sadly, most of the audience missed Night Ranger's set due to a two-mile backup on I-10 and mammoth lines at the ticket counters. Considering the amphitheater holds 20,000 people, perhaps management should look into adding more than 8 will-call windows and four entry lines.

Foreigner was next. Led by guitarist Mick Jones, the only original member left in the group, the band plowed through its hits, playing everything from "Cold As Ice" to the ballad "Waiting for a Girl Like You." Jones did spice the songs up with some bluesy soloing, though, and singer Kelly Hansen did a capable job handling Gramm's vocal lines. But the singer, who joined the band in 2005, added nothing to the group. And compared to Jones' laid-back stage presence, Hansen's rock star posturing looked sadly out of place.

But the audience loved hearing all those hits like "Hot Blooded" and "Urgent," which featured saxophonist Thom Gimbel (the only song on which he played). Wonder how much it costs an opening act to bring a musician on the road who is only onstage for about four minutes?

The encore of "Juke Box Hero" was another audience fave. The song featured a video of a young emo kid standing outside a Foreigner concert with a copy of the band's "Agent Provocateur" album. This seemed completely unrealistic for a couple reasons: Anyone who was a teen when that album came out is now in their 40s.

Anyone who was inspired to become a musician by "I Wanna Know What Love Is" probably isn't rocking'.

But the main attraction was Journey. Enjoying new life thanks to the song "Don't Stop Believin'," which featured prominently in both the final episode of "The Sopranos" and the tween musical drama "Glee", the veteran group is on the road supporting its latest CD, "Eclipse," which features Filipino singer Arnel Pineda, who was asked to join the band in 2007 after guitarist Neal Schon saw a YouTube video of him performing.

Pineda did an amazing job, bringing a youthful energy to the aging Frisco rockers. His enthusiasm was infectious, and his pipes more than made up for the lack of Perry, handling the high tenor parts perfectly. Opening with "Separate Ways" , the band delivered 90 minutes of hits that struck a good balance between rockers and ballads. The band even featured three tracks from "Eclipse", which hit stores in May.

"Wheel in the Sky" was a highlight, with Schon taking the spotlight for a riff-heavy jam reminiscent of Santana's "Soul Sacrifice", a tribute to the fellow Bay Area rocker with whom Schon got his start perhaps?

And of course there were the power ballads. "Open Arms" featured a lengthy piano intro from Jonathan Cain, while "Lights" had the entire audience holding their cell phones aloft.

Even the monsoon that rolled in during "Wheel in the Sky" didn't dampen the proceedings too much. Well, it did, but most of the crowd braved the downpour to hear tunes like the title track from "Escape" and the mega ballad "Faithfully." Of course the set wrapped up with that inescapable tale of smalltown girls and city boys from South Detroit, "Don't Stop Believin'" . An encore of "Any Way You Want It" wrapped up the evening.

And despite indie rock, grunge, hip-hop and the other musical trends that have rendered big hair arena rock obsolete in the 21st century, Journey was still able to put on a great show. And if the strength of the new material is any indication, Journey still has a lot of life left in them.

Night Ranger Setlist:
Growing Up in California
Sing Me Away
Coming of Age
When You Close Your Eyes
Don't Tell Me You Love Me
Sister Christian
(You Can Still) Rock in America

Foreigner Setlist:
Double Vision
Head Games
Cold as Ice
Waiting for a Girl Like You
Feels Like the First Time
I Want to Know What Love Is
Hot Blooded
Juke Box Hero

Journey Setlist:
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
Ask the Lonely
City of Hope
Only the Young
Send Her My Love
Stone in Love
Edge of the Moment
Wheel in the Sky
Chain of Love
Open Arms
Be Good To Yourself
Don't Stop Believin'
Any Way You Want It

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