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Review: Journey, Foreigner, Night Ranger deliver blistering night of '80s rock
by Tony Hicks - Contra Costa Times
October 06, 2011

It was like the movie "Cocoon." Somebody must've let the old rockers into the aliens' rejuvenating pool.

When a band that's been around for more than 30 years is so hellbent on playing that it takes the stage 10 minutes early, as Night Ranger did Wednesday at Sleep Train Pavilion at Concord, you know something out of the ordinary is happening.

Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger - a cadre of rock codgers with more than a hundred years of making records between them - were all pulling at the leash like a bunch of 20-year-olds with something to prove.

Headlining San Francisco band Journey did a 90-minute greatest hits package (including the new song "City of Hope," met with polite applause). The high-octane nostalgia inspired more talk in the audience of the old Day on the Green shows in Oakland - which all three bands played at least once back in the day - than at any time since an actual Day on the Green show. Wednesday's concert kind of felt like one of those concerts, except for the overcast night skies and the, uh, more mature audience.

Maybe it's his new tabloid romance with infamous White House party crasher and "Real Housewives of D.C." cast member Michaele Salahi, but Journey guitarist Neal Schon was electrified all night, sprinting around the stage firing off frenetic solo after frenetic solo. Singer Arnel Pineda - who joined the band in 2007 after he was discovered on YouTube doing Journey covers in his native Philippines- obviously has given the band a serious jolt of energy with his smiling "I'm just happy to be here so I'm going to run around like a kid" attitude and powerful voice.

Opening with "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)," Journey went down the list of hits, including "Send Her My Love," "Only the Young," "Faithfully" (ironically, featuring Schon's most blistering solo of the night) "Lights" and "Wheel in the Sky," which featured a semi-awkward harmonica solo by Jonathan Cain. All of the songs sounded heavier than normal - even "Open Arms," and especially "La Do Da." Schon finished his big night by giving away his guitar to a fan during the encore "Any Way You Want It."

Foreigner was fairly energized as well - if you could even call this band Foreigner, as not one original member was on stage (founding guitarist Mick Jones has missed multiple dates on the tour due to illness). Former Hurricane singer Kelly Hansen sounded as much like Steven Tyler as original Foreigner singer Lou Gramm.

Think of it as easily the best Foreigner tribute band ever, rolling through big hits "Double Vision," "Head Games," "Cold as Ice," "Waiting for a Girl Like You," "Dirty White Boy," "Urgent," etc. To be fair, the guys put on a better show than the real Foreigner did in its heyday. But it's just wasn't the real thing.

Night Ranger, however, might have just stepped out of 1984. Going on early and determined to squeeze everything they could out of their opening set, the local musicians were having so much fun, even notoriously straight-faced drummer Kelly Keagy was laughing during "When You Close Your Eyes."

The Bay Area band ripped through big versions of "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" and "(You Can Still) Rock in America," with its patented tight twin-guitar attack from Lafayette's Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra (who replaced Jeff Watson before the band's recent CD "Somewhere in California."). Of course, Night Ranger played its big hit "Sister Christian," even if the mid-tempo song almost didn't belong in a set where the musicians were sprinting as if their tails were on fire for 40 minutes.

In fact, the whole show was marked by a kind of youthful, manic energy which was fun to watch. Just don't cramp up, guys.

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