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Journey Delivers Hits In Hartford Concert
by Eric R. Danton - Hartford Courant
August 29, 2011

Surely there's someone who wants to hear Journey play new songs in concert, but you have to figure they're vastly outnumbered by the people who would be satisfied with a set that alternated between "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Lights" for 90 minutes.

By now, though, the band knows the nostalgia-tour code: play the new stuff, but not too much of it. That's what Journey did Thursday at Comcast Theatre in Hartford at the top of a bill that included fellow champion-rockers Foreigner, sort of (more on that in a sec), and Night Ranger.

Journey started off in power-ballad mode before rocking things up, stringing together a handful of mid-tempo sensitive songs including opener "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" and "Send Her My Love." Apart from a guitar interlude here for Neal Schon and a keyboard segue there for Jonathan Cain, the songs were more or less exact musical re-creations of the albums, though current singer Arnel Pineda is the band's fourth lead vocalist.

He sounds a lot like Journey's seminal front man Steve Perry, capturing that aching rasp on the weary road song "Faithfully" and belting out high notes late in the show on "Be Good to Yourself." Pineda oversang a little on "Lights," and his voice got a little rubbery as he extended phrases on "Open Arms."

The new songs were forgettable excuses to sit down or head out on a beer run, but the band compensated with searing lead lines from Schon on "Stone in Love" and, to start the encore, a crackling version of "Don't Stop Believin'."

Foreigner was missing Mick Jones, the sole original member and the only one whose tenure extends back even through the mid '90s. Jones was ill, singer Kelly Hansen said, and without him, the band on stage wasn't Foreigner so much as it was a group of guys who know a bunch of Foreigner songs.

With Night Ranger guitarist Joel Hoekstra filling in for Jones, the faux Foreigner played an energetic enough set: Hansen raced around the stage and exhorted the crowd to help him sing "I Want to Know What Love Is" and "Hot Blooded," and Thom Gimbel delivered the goods on the distinctive saxophone part to "Urgent." The whole thing felt a little cheesy, though, particularly the 16-bit Super Nintendo-style video game figures on the video screen during the unnecessary encore, "Jukebox Hero."

Night Ranger opened the show with a 35-minute set of songs that included, of course, "Sister Christian," along with "(You Can Still) Rock in America" and "High Enough," a song by singer and bassist Jack Blades' other band, Damn Yankees.

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