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REVIEW: Journey at Frank Erwin Center
by Eli Watson - The Horn
September 27, 2011

Journey performed at the Frank Erwin Center, Thursday, Sep 22. Opening for the classic rock act were rock heavyweights Night Ranger and Foreigner.

Night Ranger is hard rock at its finest. Seriously, if you have never head banged to their power ballad "Sister Christian," you are missing out. Debuting in the ‘80s, these guys can still put on a great show, their balls to the wall, rock-fueled songs forcing you to raise your fist in the air.

There is nothing foreign about Foreigner. "I Want to Know What Love Is," "Waiting for A Girl like You," their hit list just goes on and on. Whether you have sung their music in an inebriated state at your favorite karaoke spot, or heard their songs in various video games, Foreigner brings the heavy, but knows when to lighten the moment with some of their synth/piano-driven classics.

Journey is a band that transcends time. Their music is still relevant, and I am pretty sure that there is some unspoken law across the world that states you have to be able to air-guitar Neal Schon's guitar solo on "Don't Stop Believin'."

Starting off the night's festivities was Night Ranger, who were crowd-pleasers from beginning to end. Shredding through songs "(You Can Still) Rock in America," "Sister Christian" and "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," Night Ranger had the crowd participate in every way possible. "Austin, Texas on vocals," shouted vocalist/bassist Jack Blades as guitarists Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra soloed all over the place. Their hard rock ferociousness was almost too much for the jam-packed arena. Even in softer moments during their set, Night Ranger always remained powerful, their dynamic sound fueled by Eric Levy's melodic synths and Kelly Keagey's explosive drumming.

Night Ranger got our blood pumping, but it would be Foreigner who got us jumping around. Starting off with "Double Vision" Foreigner's Kelly Hansen was all over the place. During "Cold as Ice," the charismatic vocalist jumped into the audience, a sea of hands surrounding Hansen as he made his way back onstage. Foreigner kept the classics coming with "Waiting for A Girl like you."

Michael Bluestein struck his keyboard, and out rang synths that reverberated across the arena. Everyone's adrenaline was up when Foreigner ended with "Hot Blooded" and "Juke Box Hero." Strumming hard, Mick Jones and Thom Gimbel were shredding away, their rock bravado fueling the last amount of energy Hansen had left. Drummer Marc Schulman and bassist Jeff Pilson had no problem acting as the band's locomotive, their pulsating, metronomic pocket keeping the band steady and intact as Jones and Gimbel fought for guitar god supremacy.

We were now ready for Journey. The lights dimmed as the band made their way onstage, keyboardist Jonathan Cain playing the opening melody to "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)." Neal Schon, as he would prove throughout the night, is some otherworldly guitar virtuoso. Solo after solo, Schon would just deliver with lightning-fast guitar technique. I am surprised that his guitar did not explode from the sheer power of his playing. Fortunately, the rest of the band effortlessly kept up with Schon, especially vocalist Arnel Pineda. This guy has pipes for days; he delivers just like Steve Perry, hitting notes with flawless precision.

Pineda was mesmerizing as he jumped across the stage and even pulled a Hansen when he jumped into the crowd. Going through "Wheel in the Sky," "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Escape," Journey had everybody singing. Not allowing Cain and Pineda to steal the show, drummer Deen Castronovo took over everybody's attention with his fluid style. His sense of timing was impeccable, alternating between an array of cymbals and drums.

Ending with "Any Way You Want It" and "Lovin', Squeezin', Touchin'," the group had everybody going crazy; even those who had sat in their seats for the whole show were now standing up, the power of rock having manipulated their bodies and resulting in a swarm of raised fists and banging heads. As confetti exploded from all sides of the arena, all of the members walked to the front of the stage and bowed towards the audience. "Thank you, Austin," Pineda yelled proudly.

Journey's performance left everybody in awe. To be able to see such an accomplished band still rocking out and interacting with their fans, is so great. In between the monotonous crowd singing and drunken air guitar were moments of absolute bliss. Pineda is by far one of rock's main front men. He never faltered during his performance, and his acrobatic movements were the icing to the band's cake.

The Frank Erwin Center may need some time to recover; Journey brought the heavy with their melody-driven hard rock. As we all walked out of the arena we all could not help but continue singing the songs of Journey, our voices cracking left and right at our feeble attempts of trying to imitate Pineda. We will never stop believing in Journey - their music connects with those of the past and present, proving that Journey will continue to be a band that lives on well into the future.

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