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Nobody cruises around in Chevettes or feathers their hair anymore, but Friday night’s concert at Target Field proved many Minnesotans still haven’t given up the rock anthems that accompanied those bygone activities of early-’80s American youth.
Journey and Def Leppard came to town on a co-headlining tour crammed with the most Top 40 rock hits ever played in one night at the Minneapolis ballpark. If you owned a radio between 1980 and 1990 and didn’t damage your brain with too much aerosol hair spray, you would have recognized three-fourths of the songs performed.
That familiarity bred a nearly sold-out crowd of about 40,000 fans, mostly 40 and up in age. They arrived under cool summer weather that perfectly complemented the concert’s breezy, windows-down, lighters-up tone.
Sadly, only about half the audience showed up in time for opening act Cheap Trick. Unlike the headliners, the Illinois rockers spiked their 45-minute set with a killer new song, “Summer Looks Good on You.” Also unlike the headliners, they showed up with a singer, Robin Zander, with nearly as much power and range in his voice as he had 30-plus years ago, proven in the fiery classics “Dream Police” and “Surrender.”
Taking the middle slot Friday — they alternate headlining duties from city to city, maybe based on local groupie status — Def Leppard’s members still very much looked the part of ’80s rock stars.
Beefcakey guitarist Phil Collen came out shirtless with wraparound sunglasses. Bassist Rick Savage wore a pink “Miami Vice”-like blazer. And frontman Joe Elliott coolly strutted out onto the thrust stage in opening tune “Rocket” and whipped around his healthy mane of blonde hair.
Alas, Elliott’s vocals didn’t sound as natural as his hair looked. He hoarsely worked through other hits early in the band’s 90-minute set such as “Animal” and “Foolin’,” but whenever the songs’ big, ultra-polished choruses came around, the vocals somehow sounded bigger than ever.
Of course, Elliott and the band got ample singing help from the crowd. After a boring middle segment that included the 2015 dud “Man Enough” and a cover of David Essex’s “Rock On,” the British vets finished with a stream of hits, including an encore of “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph.”
“There will be a next time!” Elliott yelled at the end.
Journey bought itself a whole lot of “next times” when it found current singer Arnel Pineda on YouTube from the Philippines in 2007. Pineda has since outlasted hitmaker singer Steve Perry’s tenure in the band, but his primary selling point 11 years later is still how much he sings just like Perry did back in the day.
Guitarist Neal Schon raised the nostalgia level for Perry when he introduced the 1977 back seat make-out anthem “Lights.”
“This is the second song I ever wrote with Steve Perry,” Schon said. “It’s dedicated to him and our city by the bay.”
Journey’s big issue Friday wasn’t how imitational Pineda sounded, but rather how poorly the entire operation sounded. The acoustics were not problematic during Def Leppard, but turned muddy throughout the headlining set.
The night’s rockiest tunes, such as “Escape,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ ” and “Wheel in the Sky,” especially fell flat in the mix. Conversely, Jonathan Cain’s mellow, Yanni-like solo piano segment came through clearly.
The show’s key moments still rose above the sonic din, though. “Stone in Love” — with its refrain of “Those summer nights are calling” — was a home run in the ballpark setting. Obviously, so was the wait-for-it finale of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” a song played at just about every ballgame there. But rarely does the crowd sing it so literally.
By Star Tribune 2018.
The weather was gorgeous. The music was loud. The crowd was confusing. Twins jersey over a Def Leppard T-shirt? Tuxedo? Hat with motorcycle handlebars? However you choose to celebrate Cheap Trick, Def Leppard, and Journey is your business, and no one at Target Field was judging Friday night.
Cheap Trick was up to bat first, and they looked into the setting sun, pointed to the fence, and jacked a dinger into the upper deck with the classic opener “Hello There” from In Color.
Robin Zander wore his best Mad Hatter inspired top hat (a tribute to Tom Petty?) and his voice was in fine form. Rick Nielsen played a different guitar for each song, and Tom Petersson rocked his twelve string bass. The band was rounded out by Nielsen’s son, Daxx, on drums, and Robin Zander Jr. on guitar.
Cheap Trick has been America’s band since 1974, and they made it look easy. They rocked lean and hard through “You Got it Going On” from 2017, and their version of “California Man” from Heaven Tonight, for which Nielsen broke out his rectangular Rockford guitar.
“Just in case you didn’t know, we are Cheap Trick,” joked Nielsen. “If you know this one sing it. If you don’t, sing louder.” 1982’s “If You Want My Love” rang through the outfield, as the crowd elevated the chorus.
Nielsen did most of the talking between songs, kidding about Cheap Trick continuing to make records whether or not folks listen to or buy them, but for the most part it was just a hard-hitting rock and roll show from the Rockford weirdos.
For many in the audience, 1988’s “The Flame” was the high point. I am definitely not saying that many people of a certain age got to first base to the strains of this tune back in the day, but I’m not not saying it either. Basically, “The Flame” was beautiful.
Cheap Trick finished with a stacked line-up in the third inning of their set. “I Want You to Want Me” (come on, Robin, we all want you) banged Budokan style, and “Dream Police” wasn’t messing around—much rawer than the 1979 version. Nielsen screeched his vocals for the track before tossing a giant handful of guitar picks to the people up front.
“Surrender” featured some teenagers on stage for the first chorus, and ever the prankster, Nielsen threw some (KISS?) records out into the crowd at the lyrically appropriate time. They ended perfectly with “Goodnight Now,” with Nielsen dragging out one of his five-necked hydra guitars. Thanks guys, it was the end of a great show, but it wasn’t even close to time to go.
If you have never seen the word “MINNEAPOLIS” in Def Leppard font on a Jumbotron, well then, brothers and sisters, you just don’t know what you have been missing.Leppard walked out to Target Field for the middle innings in all their Union Jack-ed glory. Throughout the performance, there were no less than six United Kingdom flags visible on and around Phil Collen (guitar), Vivian Campbell (guitar), Rick Savage (bass), Rick Allen (drums), and Joe Elliott (vocals). Lepp opened with 1987’s “Rocket” for a crowd ready, so very ready, for them. Hysteria was obviously a huge touchstone, as the band returned to that mega album six times in their set. “Are you ready for this?” Singer Joe Elliott asked. “Let’s go back in time to 1983… Pyromania!” Def Leppard got the crowd fa-fa-fa-“Foolin,” before fast-forwarding to 1992’s “Let’s Get Rocked.” And oh how the crowd did just that. Booze definitely fueled the euphoria, but it isn’t an understatement to say that the crowd went bananas. “How long have we been coming here?” Elliott mused. “Thirty eight fucking years… Well, not here in this place, but the Twin Cities. Look at you people, beautiful.”
The band worked a spacey, funky cover of David Essex’s “Rock On” into the set, but the Pyromania and Hysteria songs were what the crowd wanted, and Lep obliged. The quintessential Hysteria power balled “Love Bites” sparked some couples in the aging crowd to Straw-Ber-Rita-fueled fumblings toward second base. Lep then went back to 1981 for “Bringing on the Heartbreak” and “Switch 625” before loading up the bases for the crowd with four tracks from Pyromania/ Hysteria sweet spot.
Def Leppard has always sported a pop sheen on their rock music, and while some of the electronics are borne of necessity, at times they sound like a video game playing rock and roll.
No matter to the crowd, though, as Elliott returned to the stage in his finest Sgt. Pepper top coat after a brief drum freakout by Rick Allen. The band took everyone through a nostalgic video montage or “Hysteria” before getting everyone dancing on the bar for the sexy nonsense of “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”
After a brief pause, Lep encored with “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph,” both performed with a cam on Phil Collen’s fretboard. It was a lot of fun, and Elliott finished by promising “Thank you until next time, and there will be a next time.”
Escaping (eh, eh?) the seventh inning stretch, Journey was already winning when the familiar keyboards and chugging guitar of “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” brought everyone to their feet.
Old news at this point, but it still bears mentioning that “new” vocalist Arnel Pineda absolutely slays the Steve Perry-era Journey material. Case closed. He sounds amazing, and is in a near constant state of crowd interaction.
Pineda, Neal Schon (guitar), Ross Valory (bass), Steve Smith (drums), and Jonathan Cain (keyboards, guitar) threw themselves completely into the songs. 1983’s “Only the Young” and 81’s “Escape” were muscular and elastic, almost garage rock on the Target Field stage.
Pineda didn’t say much beyond encouraging the audience, but his singing voice and youthful enthusiasm connected to everyone from the front row to way up high in the clouds.
“It’s great to be back in the Twin Cities.” Schon observed. “Thank God for this weather!”
He went on to mention that 1978’s “Lights” was one of the first songs he wrote with prior vocalist Steve Perry. He asked an audience cell phone light show, and in a nice touch, dedicated the song to Perry.
Pineda delivered a soulful rendition of 1979’s “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” complete with the “na-na-n-na-nana” outro and swaying arms.
If you guessed that your parents and possibly grandparents fully made out Friday night during Escape’s “Open Arms,” you would be correct. It is not possible (or something I want to necessarily think about) to know if any couple made it to third base during this song, but smart money is on if-not-right-then-probably-when-they-got-home.
Journey pulled out 1978’s “La Do Da” out of their bag of tricks, and its blistering, metallic opening became a rallying point for Pineda as he fell to the stage, singing on his stomach and reaching out to audience members. Departure’s “Any Way You Want It” from 1980 should have brought to mind the movie Caddyshack (success!), and featured Jonathan Cain wearing a Twins jersey.
Journey blasted the crowd with a propulsive rendition of 1978’s “Wheel in the Sky” from Infinity. Backed by fiery effects and imagery, the sound was rocked up more than its studio version.
Cain told a story about “Faithfully” (did you know there was a Prince story attached to this song?) that included a traveling circus, and how it compared to life as a traveling musician. He ended up dedicating it ultimately to the fans.
Journey finished with a loving take on that song. Pineda and the band celebrated that small town girl, and the boy from South Detroit, and arms around each other, everyone ate it up, vowing through one voice to never, ever stop believin’.
By City Pages 2018.
Back in 2006, When Journey and Def Leppard first toured together, both bands were suffering in the lead singer department.
Journey fired Steve Perry’s replacement, Steve Augeri, midway through the tour due to what they said was a “chronic throat infection.” (Fans at the time speculated Augeri was, at least at times, lip syncing.) And Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott was already starting to struggle in hitting the high notes from his band’s ’80s heyday.
Friday night, the two bands returned to town together and drew about 40,000 fans to Minneapolis’ Target Field on what turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous night for an outdoor concert. Among other things, the concert showed each band has found a solution to the problem that plagued them last time around.
After a rousing opening set from Cheap Trick, Def Leppard took the stage at 7:30 p.m., with the lingering sunlight clashing with the stage lights and making it a bit tough to see the band at first. (As an onscreen clock counted down the minutes until they started the show, Def Lepp’s recent cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” blasted over the loudspeakers. It’s fairly decent, all things considered, and one wonders why they didn’t include it in their live set.)
Def Leppard plays the Twin Cities frequently – Friday’s show was their seventh this decade – and they tend to take a bit looser, more freewheeling approach when they’re outside. Guitarist Vivian Campbell appeared to be doing great after battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And the group’s other guitarist, Phil Collen, continues to play sans shirt, fully exposing a physique that’s impressive at any age, but even more so when you realize he’s 60(!)>/p>
As for Elliott, well, it’s not like his voice has improved with age. But technology has, and he’s relying more than ever on electronic wizardry to help hide his deteriorating vocals. Perhaps he’s gone a bit too far, because at times, it sounded like a computer was singing songs like “Love Bites” and “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak.”
“Hysteria,” too, bordered on robotic. By the time Elliott hit the two-song encore of “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph,” it was unclear just how much actual singing was taking place on stage. (Perhaps a roadie should have unplugged his special vocal effects equipment, waited 30 seconds, and plugged it back in.)
As for Journey, they famously found their current lead singer Arnel Pineda on YouTube, and he’s now in his 11th year in front of the mic. Pineda sounds pretty much exactly like Perry, whose vocal style was distinctly unique. But somehow Pineda doesn’t come off like he’s imitating Perry, which is an amazing feat. And at 50, he brings energy to a stage full of guys 13 to 19 years older than him.
Save for Pineda, the rest of Journey’s lineup is now the same as it was during their hitmaking days, as drummer Steve Smith returned in 2015 after 17 years away from the group. And Journey still follows that old arena rock tradition of giving each musician his own lengthy, indulgent solo.
As he did at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center in August 2016, guitarist Neal Schon snuck in some “Purple Rain” into the second of his two solo turns Friday night. Keyboardist Jonathan Cain, though, veered into Yanni-land with his time alone on the stage.
Journey also did suffer some in the sonic department. The tour is using Def Leppard’s equipment, which may be a bit too tailored to Elliott’s shortcomings. Whatever the case, Def Leppard was loud and full, but Journey sounded like someone threw wet towels over the amps.
By Twin Cities 2018.
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