In what would have probably been a dream bill in 1984, Journey, Foreigner, and Night Ranger still managed to fill the Xcel Energy Center on July 28—even though Night Ranger was the only band with any semblance of their original core lineup and to retain their original lead singer. That aside, while it was certainly an evening fueled by nostalgia, the bands’ newer (and younger) lineups made for a much higher-energy show from all three acts than I would have ever expected.
Starting off the night with a short 30-minute set, Night Ranger saved their two biggest hits, “Sister Christian” and “(You Can Still) Rock In America” for the end of their set. The latter featured dueling American flag guitars as well as American flags brought out by the stage crew and a red, white, and blue version of their Night Ranger logo displayed on the LED screen behind the band. Earlier in their set, they covered “Coming of Age” by Damn Yankees, a 90s supergroup that featured Night Ranger bassist and singer Jack Blades along with Ted Nugent and Tommy Shaw of Styx.
While Foreigner’s only original member is founding guitarist Mick Jones, newer lead singer Kelly Hansen, who could easily front an Aerosmith cover band, had a ton of energy and spot-on vocals leading the crowd through their nearly hour-long set. Running through their biggest hits such as “Hot Blooded,” “Cold As Ice,” and “Double Vision,” I was somewhat surprised that I knew the words to every single song they played; judging from the audience’s volume, I wasn’t alone. I had joked on Twitter during the show that this show was definitely crossing many “Monster Ballads” off of my bucket list to see live, and one of the biggest was the 1984 hit “I Want to Know What Love Is.” While in 1984 the arena would have been filled with lighters during the song, it was not surprisingly a decent mix of lighters and cell phones now. Unfortunately the band overextended their welcome a bit by playing a stretched out encore of “Jukebox Hero” that seemed to go on forever.
From the crowd volume and reaction once Journey hit the stage, it was clear that most everyone was there to see them; sans Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger are usually relegated to playing casinos and state fairs these days. Lead singer Arnel Pineda, whom the band discovered in 2007 from YouTube videos of his old band The Zoo covering Journey songs in his native Philippines, might only stand a bit over 5 feet tall, but his amazing voice certainly makes up for it. While people may try and write off Arnel (or anyone for that matter) for not being Steve Perry, it’s worth pointing out that Perry was Journey’s third lead singer. Pineda has an insanely impressive set of pipes and if you were to close your eyes during a handful of songs, you might just think it’s the real thing. His youthful look and boundless energy seemed to also give the band a much needed shot of adrenaline. Founding member Neal Schon looked good for his age and his playing was flawless and effortless, but it was Pineda’s booming vocals that kept the crowd on their feet. After running through a number of their biggest songs such as the show opener “Separate Ways,” Journey slipped in three newer songs that not surprisingly fell flat with the audience.
The song and moment nearly everyone in the crowd (myself included) was waiting for all night, ‘Don’t Stop Believin’,” closed out Journey’s main set. The song has been given a huge second life due to its use in pop culture over the last decade (it’s the top selling catalog song in iTunes history), and judging from the fervor the crowd displayed during Journey’s performance, its popularity shows no signs of abating any time soon. While for many it was a night of nolstagia, considering the age of many others in the crowd, it was clear that Journey have managed to attract a significant number of younger fans who weren’t even alive in 1984.
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