The Minnesota State Fair was given an explosive final farewell to the 2014 Grandstand Concert Series as Journey and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts came together for an amazing rock sound that electrified the myriad masses out of their food comas and on to their feet.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts opened the show at 7pm sharp, ripping right into “Bad Reputation” and keeping the energy level high as people scrambled to get to their seats and enjoy the show. Jett was absolutely stunning on stage, exuding charm, energy, and a playful stage presence that was captivating. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts know what they’re doing, and they do it well, as they blasted through almost an hour of straight forward, high-octane rock and roll.
Journey then took the stage following a fairly lengthy intermission and captivated in their own right. While Joan Jett has that wonderful, fast, heavy hitting sound that conjures visions of energetic nights in small venues, Journey is almost pure arena rock. Journey is sing-along rock, it is “bust out your lighters and sway to the tune” rock, and their performance brought you to all of those moments, from the classic “Any Way You Want It,” to the track with the greatest music video ever in “Separate Ways” (which brought a ridiculous and completely unexpected pop from the crowd), to the more mellow sounds of songs such as “Lights” and “Open Arms.”
Arnel Pineda is an amazing frontman, a man with an incredible amount of energy and a million dollar smile who knows how to work a crowd, and while he was given plenty of time as the face, each band member was given their own chance to shine, and each of them did. No one seemed lost in the shuffle as the whole truly felt like a collaborative effort between artists as equals rather than musicians without identities stacked up behind a charming and likable face. Guitarist Neal Schon owned his opportunities all night, firing off several great solos and even getting a bit of spotlight time of his own to play through a little Hendrix-inspired riff on the Star Spangled Banner. Drummer Deen Castronovo excelled in a performance of “Mother, Father” as well as owning a few moments of his own. Jonathan Cain’s piano solo was quite beautiful and a good segue into the softer tracks, while bassist Ross Valory was a delightful surprise, flashing an entertaining array of ridiculous, exaggerated facial expressions like something straight out of a silent film, something which may not have been captured by cameras for the folks in the grandstand but was very apparent to those close to the stage.
Journey and Joan Jett are an oddly complementary duo, juxtaposing the minimalist and straight-forward rock of The Blackhearts with the wonderfully over-the-top stage show that is Journey. It is the difference between a simple black banner bearing the band’s name and massive video screens and frantic lighting effects, but while each may be suited for a different venue, they both worked well at the Grandstand last night.
Journey and Joan Jett killed it on a beautiful night at the fair, creating a Monday which not even Garfield could hate. The Grandstand Concert Series was given a grand send-off on the last day of the State Fair, as two amazing rock acts did a great job of warding off that sense of melancholy that comes with the closing of the fair and the realization that summer is drawing to a close, and The Season Which Shall Not Be Named is pressing ever closer on the horizon. It was a good night with a great crowd who seemed eager to sing along with every track, and it was a great way to end the Fair.
©2014 Caleb Baumgartner (text) and Patrick Dunn (photos)
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