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July 29, 2011
ST. PAUL - when Arnel Pineda took the stage Thursday night before an impressive crowd of 13,000 fans at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, it was easy to close your eyes and imagine that you were hearing the voice of former Journey lead singer Steve Perry.
Pineda, a Filipino, has a startling similar voice to Perry, but he brought an energy and exuberance to his performance better than the previous time I saw Journey in concert.
Journey, best known for a string of hits in the mid -1980s when Perry was lead singer, was on top of their game in their 80-minute, 17-song concert.
The band opened with the hits "Separate Ways" and "Ask The Lonely." Pineda then launched into a new track, "City of Hope," while footage of the Philippines recovering from a natural disaster played on a screen behind him, and it was obvious that the song had a lot of personal meaning to him.
Pineda kept rolling through the group's biggest hits, from "Only The Young" to "Send Her My Love" to "Lights." I've never been a big fan of the song, "Wheel In The Sky," but it had the crowd rockin.'
Of course, Pineda saved the biggest hits for last, as he zipped through the ballad "Open Arms," launched into the more upbeat "Be Good To Yourself," back to the ballad "Faithfully," then finished the main set on a high note with "Don't Stop Believin,' with a confetti cannon covering the satisfied crowd. To my surprise, the band came back to perform "Anyway You Want It" as an encore - I thought the confetti cannon was a surefire show-closer.
With a band that's been together for more than 30 years - even though they've played musical chairs with their lead vocalist - there are going to be some hits that were skipped. On this night, that meant no "Who's Crying Now," which I missed, and "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin,'" which I didn't mind was left off the set list.
I've never seen Foreigner before, but they nearly stole the show from Journey. The band played 10 songs - all from their greatest hits CD I purchased perhaps 15 years ago. They opened with "Double Vision," moved through "Head Games," then ran through "Cold As Ice." They slowed it down with "Waiting For A Girl Like You," then immediate picked up the energy again with "Dirty White Boy," "Feels Like The First Time" and "Urgent." The screen behind the band was a lively neon light-show, particularly during "Urgent."
After performing the big singalong "I Want To Know What Love Is," Foreigner finished with "Hot Blooded" and the encore of "Juke Box Hero."
While I enjoyed Journey's set, they mixed in two new tracks and a couple other songs I admittedly didn't know. I think the crowd really appreciated that Foreigner stuck to one well-known hit after another, all the way through their 75-minute set.
Like Journey, they had to skip a few hits. I really missed "That Was Yesterday," but I expected it, as they played the two other big ballads.
Night Ranger was loud, dull
Night Ranger took the stage 10 minutes before the posted starting time of the concert, which pleased the crowd. However, it seemed that the band was more intent on being loud than good. I watched 16 acts at Rock Fest two weeks ago, and none of them were as loud as Night Ranger was on Thursday. I don't mean to sound like an old guy complaining about noise, but when the music is so loud that you can't make out the words, it isn't much fun. Of course, Night Ranger saved their biggest hit "Sister Christian" for second-to-last, and by the time that song was played, it felt like the decibels had been reigned in a bit. Overall, I have to say that Night Ranger was quite a disappointment.
After seeing three great nights of Rock Fest - followed by the miserably hot Sunday finale with the underperforming Stone Temple Pilots - it was nice to essentially add a fifth night of a Rock Festival.
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