Journey, Doobie Brothers, Dave Mason Keep the Classics Coming in Sioux Falls
A lot has changed since 1979, but some things are timeless.
Take the band Journey for instance. I first saw the San Francisco-based group 37 years ago this summer, playing with Thin Lizzy at the Long Beach Arena, in Southern California.
Back then, Steve Perry was relatively new on the scene, having just completed his second album, Evolution, with the band. That 1979 show featured Perry really coming into his own as a vocalist, with original members Greg Rolie, Neal Schon, and Ross Valory providing the high energy rock sound that catapulted the Journey to star status in the late 70's.
Rolie departed in 1980 and was replaced by former Babys' keyboardist Jonathan Cain. With Cain's influence as a songwriter, Journey took a noticeable turn toward more pop-oriented material, with songs like 'Who's Crying Now', 'Open Arms', and 'Faithfully'. The band's new sound made them much more radio-friendly and also put them in the Top 20 in the Billboard charts six times in the next two years.
After Evolution in 1979, Perry would go on to make three more albums with Journey, before leaving in 1987 to pursue a solo career. He did return for one more album, Trial By Fire, before leaving for good in 1998.
These days, Arnel Pineda is handling lead vocals for Journey. Thanks to YouTube, he was plucked out of relative obscurity in his native Philippines back in 2007, when the band saw him covering some of their tunes with the group, The Zoo.
Pineda was front and center when Journey arrived in Sioux Falls, Thursday night, for San Francisco Fest 2016. And even though diehard fans of the band are longing to see Perry walk out on stage again after nearly 20 years, there is no disputing that Pineda does the band's extensive catalog justice. You could even make the argument that Pineda, at age 48, handles the vocal intricacies of the material much more adeptly than Perry could these days, at age 67.
At the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, Journey's 16-song set featured a couple of interesting twists. Schon ripped thru not one, but two guitar solos. The first, set against a back drop featuring photos of U.S. soldiers and patriotic images, began with 'Taps' and segued into Schon channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix with a stirring rendition of the 'Star Spangled Banner'. He later soloed during 'Wheel in the Sky'.
Cain's keyboard became a bit of a medley, as he included bits of two songs the band didn't play - 'Send Her My Love' and 'I'll Be Alright Without You'.
It was good to see Steve Smith behind the drums after a more than ten-year absence. This is Smith's third stint with the band, He first arrived for the Evolution album and stayed until 1985, before coming back from 1995 to 1998.
Journey's set was, not surprisingly, heavily weighted toward the Cain years, with 11 of the 16 songs from the glory days of the 1980's. Along with 'Who's Crying Now', 'Open Arms', and 'Faithfully', the near capacity crowd was treated to the now classic anthem, 'Don't Stop Believin'' (where for one night the 'city boy' hailed from South Dakota, not South Detroit), as well as favorites like 'Stone In Love', 'Be Good To Yourself', and 'Separate Ways'. The band even busted out 'Only The Young' from the Vision Quest soundtrack, in 1985.
As an old timer, I would have loved to have heard more from those late 70's records. But I was very happy to hear 'Lights', 'Wheel in the Sky', 'Any Way You Want It', and 'Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin''. I was especially excited when Journey dusted off 'La Do Da', a deep cut from Infinity.
The Doobie Brothers did a much better job of playing a career spanning set.
With original members Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons leading the way, the band balanced a healthy dose of their hits with some deep cuts.
Fans were treated to the classics like 'Rockin' Down the Highway', 'Jesus is Just Alright', 'Listen to the Music', 'China Grove', 'Take Me In Your Arms', 'Long Train Runnin', and 'The Doctor'. Johnston even substituted 'South Dakota Moon' for 'Mississippi Moon' on 'Black Water', to thunderous applause from the crowd.
The Doobie diehards also went home happy with 'Dark Eyed Cajun Woman' and 'Clear as the Driven Snow' from 1973's The Captain and Me, 'Spirit' and Eyes of Silver' from 1974's What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, and 'Sweet Maxine' from 1975's Stampede.
It was good to hear 'Takin' It to the Streets', but it just wasn't the same without the smooth vocals of former band member Michael McDonald.
But all things considered, for a band that's been doing it for more than 45 years, it was a tight, inspired set.
Dave Mason opened the evening, and if you thought Mason's only contribution to music was his Top 20 solo hit 'We Just Disagree', from 1977, you were in for a huge surprise.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer broke out 'Dear Mr. Fantasy' from his days with Traffic, in 1967, and later reminded the crowd of some of his biggest accomplishments in music, first, writing 'Feelin' Alright?', which has been covered by a number of artists, most notably the Top 40 version by Joe Cocker, in 1972.
Mason then finished his set with Bob Dylan's 'All Along the Watchtower', which also played a significant part in his career. When Jimi Hendrix did his own iconic version of the song in 1968, it was Mason who contributed 12-string acoustic guitar to the recording.