–By Sean Derrick
A Busch Stadium concert is a big deal, usually reserved for mega stars and trending musicians who are at the height of their musical careers, generally with a single in the current Billboard Top 10. Even though Journey, Def Leppard and Cheap Trick haven’t had a Top 10 single on the US Top 100 Singles charts since the last millennium (or a charting single for that matter), they still performed in front of a nearly packed crowd at Busch Friday night.
In fact, for a concert that would have made more sense in the late 80’s or early 90’s these bands were out to make a statement that they still had the power to draw a large crowd. They thumbed their nose at the current state of music and proved they could nearly sell out stadiums across the country.
For many people in attendance Friday night at Busch Stadium in Saint Louis the concert gave them a fresh nostalgic feel, a turning back the clock, so to speak. For nearly five hours they were teleported back in time rocking out with bands they listened to as teens, or young adults, or even kids. Some even brought their own kids, or grandkids, to share in the experience that was bookended by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bands, and centered by a band that should be in.
Cheap Trick, who was added as the opener only a couple months ago, started the evening off with a rocking set while staring at the full setting sun.
The band from Rockford, IL wasted no time in getting fans on their feet with “Hello There” and “Long Time Coming”. With rousing performances of “I Want You to Want Me”, “Dream Police” and “Surrender” Cheap Trick set the bar high to kick off the show.
Def Leppard had probably the most challenging position of all; starting the show in the sun but finishing in the dark. For most of their set they killed it. Blasting off with “Rocket”, “Animal” and “Foolin'” the Leps seemed to be hitting on all cylinders. Then, just as the crowd was really getting into it they hit the brakes with “When Love and Hate Collide”. It seemed an odd place to put that song, only four songs in, after three rocking songs, only to get back rocking the very next song on “Let’s Get Rocked”.
It didn’t flow too well, and was sort of like putting a speed bump on the Autobahn just as you started cruising fast. Four songs later was the creeper song, er I mean “Two Steps Behind” and that started a string of three ballads, in a nicely timed spot in the set. Perfect for taking a breather before hitting hard on the final run, which ended with an encore of “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph”.
Throughout most of there set the band sounded great and rocked as hard as I have seen them (which has been many, many times). If they just would have chosen a better song for that slot (Maybe “Too Late For Love” if they wanted to slow it down a bit, but still rock?) their set would have been perfect. As it was they still scorched the place.
Journey had a seriously high bar to follow after that, and they started off very strong. Vocalist Arnel Pineda sounded awesome, and his English is much better.
Pineda (along with guitarist Neal Schon, keyboardist Jonathan Cain, bassist Ross Valory, and drummer Steve Smith) rolled out with “Separate Ways (World’s Apart)” and really showed off his skills on “Only the Young”.
Schon, Cain, and Smith individually showed off their mastery of their respective instruments in solos (man, I miss those), which Schon taking an extra one for himself.
Smith’s drum solo was mesmerizing, and particularly interesting with some tricks his utilized during the solo. At one point Smith was drumming using all 5 fingers of his left hand separately, then used his wrist to produce the notes. But the act that got the biggest response I can only describe as almost juggling while drumming. It was amazing and was must-see.
Just as Smith was rolling through his rack toms the Amps went out and there was no sound for a couple seconds. Then it came back as if nothing happened. It happened again to him twice more during his solo. I thought it was just the mics focused on him, but it happened again during “Any Way You Want It” over and over again. In fact, it kept going through every song for the remainder of the show.
At first fans were confused, wondering what was gong on. After a while with no explanation fans started to get irritated and some around me were booing. Many left after a while saying it was just too annoying.
While it is possible the band didn’t even know what was going on (their monitors in their ears apparently were working) there were a couple times that there were some annoying feedback from the issues, and one time Pineda even was startled and looked up at the amps, wondering what was going on.
The best thing would have been to stop the show apologize, take care of the issue and finish strong, or at least mention it. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, which leads me to think they had no idea how bad the issue was.
For those who claim they won’t listen to this Journey because it isn’t “Journey” without Steve Perry, listen: Steve Perry quit, he’s gone. He wasn’t even the first lead singer. Arnel is fabulous and has recorded two solid albums with the band. Do you not listen to AC/DC because Bonn Scott died in 1980? Do you not listen to Def Leppard because Steve Clark died?
Many bands go through lineup changes and Journey is no different. Rush, The Beatles, Genesis, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Metallica are just several that come to mind that have had major lineup changes (including lead singers) and had successful careers after the fact. So get over it and go check these guys out. The sound issues were not the band’s fault and I am sure some sound engineer got in trouble for that, but it was a fluke. I have never heard them have issues like that, and I am sure I won’t in the future.
The sound issues were the main reason the rating wasn’t higher.
Be sure to check out the photo gallery after the setlists below.
Separate Ways (World’s Apart)
Only the Young
Stone in Love
Be Good to Yourself
Neal Schon Guitar Solo #1
Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’
Jonathan Cain Piano Solo
Who’s Crying Now
La Do Da
Steve Smith Drum Solo
Any Way You Want It
Neal Schon Guitar Solo #2
Wheel in the Sky
Don’t Stop Believin’
Def Leppard Setlist:
When Love and hate Collide
Let’s Get Rocked
Rock On (David Essex cover)
Two Steps Behind
Bringin’ on the Heartbreak
Pour Some Sugar on Me
Rock of Ages
Cheap Trick Setlist:
Long Time Coming
California Man (The Move cover)
If You Want My Love
Ain’t That a Shame (Fats Domino cover)
The Summer Looks Good on You
I Want You to Want Me