Journey & Foreigner bring the hits to Massachusetts
A review of Journey, Foreigner at the Comcast Center on August 12, 2011
The Comcast Center required no time machine to take a blast into the past as classic rock favorites Journey and Foreigner took the stage Friday night. Though both bands’ original vocalists have long since departed for other pursuits, their replacements are more than capable of breathing life into the hits that made these bands great decades ago.
Arnel Pineda, Journey’s latest lead vocalist, was infamously discovered via YouTube for singing the band’s hits in his native Philippines. Since joining the band in 2007, he has truly grown into the role as the band’s frontman. On Friday, the audience exploded with a tumultuous cacophony of cheers and applause when he appeared onstage as if they were welcoming Steve Perry. Pineda doesn’t sound too much like Journey’s most acclaimed vocalist, but he’s an incredibly talented singer who can hit the high notes – and hold them – with ease. No one seemed to mind that it was a different voice singing the lyrics and those who felt they might be cheated out of the true Journey experience were won over as the night progressed.
After opening with “Separate Ways”, the band launched into “Ask the Lonely”, featuring Neal Schon’s first guitar solo of the night. The man’s fretwork was almost as intense as the constant grin upon his face and it was easy to tell that he was simply ecstatic about every single song the band plays. His solos in “Never Walk Away” and “Stone In Love” retain the basic melody in each track’s studio version, only enriched with tricky and nimble riffs. It’s a pleasant formula as Schon is able to show off his fretwork without abandoning the tone and vibe of whatever song highlights his guitar.
Throughout the show, which featured a setlist packed with greatest hits, the band made sure to keep fans enthralled. Whether it was adding a guitar melody to the piano in “Who’s Crying Now”, a harmonica solo from Jonathan Cain to “Wheel In The Sky” or even scrolling contrasting pictures of Boston and Manila during “City of Hope”, Journey added a little something extra throughout the night to make the show more memorable.
After slowing things down with twin power ballads “Open Arms” and “Faithfully” – the former including an impressive classical-inspired piano melody from Jonathan Cain – Journey unleashed the most anticipated song of the night. The audience’s roars of approval almost drowned out the opening piano riffs of “Don’t Stop Believin’” and the next five minutes consisted of the most epic sing-along of the night. As Pineda – with the full vocal support of almost twenty thousand fans – yelled out the final “don’t stop!”, the stage exploded into a shower of confetti and streamers. The band returned to close the night out with an encore of “Any Way You Want It” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’”.
Foreigner brought the crowd to life with a lively set of their own long before Journey took the stage. The band got it started quickly by playing fan favorites “Double Vision” and “Head Games” right at the start. Foreigner’s star was Mick Jones, whose heavy guitar fillers enriched many of the band’s songs, which otherwise would have been more monotonous. Throughout the entire set, his fillers and riffs rang out as loud and prominently as frontman Kelly Hansen’s vocals. With dazzling speed, he ripped through each melody bearing such an expression of nonchalance that he might be as well have been reading a newspaper.
Not every solo belonged to Jones, however. “Urgent” belonged to Thom Gimbel and his saxophone. Producing the horn halfway through the song, he played a furious and extended solo, pushing the instrument to its limits both high and low as he tore through the octaves with blinding speed for one of the set’s highlights. Of course, the band’s smash hit “Feels Like The First Time” sparked a mighty sing-along. Hansen, who replaced original frontman Lou Gramm in 2005, was enjoyable for his antics as much as his voice. Dancing and hopping around the stage as if it was a coal pit, courageously walking though the audience to slap fives with fans and making such a series of hand gestures that one would think he created his own sign language, he was clearly enjoying every moment of being on stage. He appreciates the tone of each song, gracefully changing his demeanor between softer songs like “I Want to Know What Love Is” and faster-paced tunes like “Dirty White Boys”.
Foreigner predictably closed its set with “Hot Blooded” and an encore of “Juke Box Hero”, the former featuring an especially lively guitar solo from Jones.
Night Ranger warmed the crowd up nicely early on, presenting a patriotic theme through the animation of the band’s name and the colors of both Brad Gillis’ and Joel Hoekstra’s guitars. They made good on their hit “Sister Christian”, the entire band huddling together for a photo opportunity while Eric Levy banged out the extended keyboard melody. The band closed their set with a lively rendition of “(You Can Still) Rock In America.”