Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx
(Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI – June 12th, 2003)
If ever there was a night to behold some of the classic glory songs from the ‘70s and early ‘80s, tonight’s trio of multi-award winning, multi-talented, multi-hit making bands would have been enough to stun a skeptical bull at ten paces! Taking place at Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit, Styx, REO Speedwagon and the still Steve Perry-less Journey brought their collective musical mites to the fore and in doing so unleashed a memorable evening of complete and utter flashback wonderment.
First up, presumably having lost the coin toss with the REO boys, Styx take to the stage at just past the seven o’clock hour. As the house lights fade, all the band members pose behind a back drop of their logo: a bright white light illuminating – therein silhouetting - them from behind. Too much?! Perhaps, but then again, an hour later some would say that they had earnt that pre-concert pose!
Fittingly, ’Too Much Time On My Hands’ is the first song of the night, closely followed by the classic ’The Grand Illusion.’ ’Waiting For Our Time’ from the new album Cyclorama comes next followed by ’Lady’ and ‘These Are The Times.’ Tommy Shaw then takes some air time to bemoan the fact that they have now been classified as a ‘Classic Rock Band’ and not just a ‘Rock Band’ anymore. Which, he says, ”… makes the Grand Illusion album a ‘classic” album, which then makes the ‘Fooling Yourself’ song a ‘classic’ song! So, if that’s so, then sing-a-long with a ‘classic’, my friends.” ’Miss America’ and the bassist-inspired-sung ’Kiss Your Ass Goodbye’ follow closely behind.
In fact, this last song was so inspirational to the bassist, Glen Burtnik that he left the front stage and traveled around the arena whilst continuing to sing the darn thing! Shaking his butt as if it were the only way to get certain lyrics out, the guy brought the crowd to its feet for the entire seven minutes. Once back on stage Styx launch into ’Blue Collar Man’ and as they head towards the encore, the keyboard strikes up and ’Come Sail Away’ is brought to the fore. A huge fan favorite, they leapt all about, sung at the top of their collective voices and lit lighters like they were going out of fashion! Mind you, perhaps some of his high kicks were a little dangerous to his own health, but nonetheless, an entertainer was definitely on the stage and in full swing.
Coming back for the encore song ’Renegade,’ a spotlight illuminating Shaw in his opening solo mode, the guys wrap up the show with an elongated version that has everyone singing along regardless of the extended guitar breaks!
REO Speedwagon, on the other hand, are a completely different bag of fish! Lead singer Kevin Cronin, his hair shorter – way shorter! - his facial-wrinkles tanned, his balladeer voice as close to perfect as it ever was, leads the way from the off with ’Ridin’ Out The Storm’ before slipping seamlessly into ’Keep Pushin’ and quite surprisingly, the entire Side One of their most revered album to date, Hi Infidelity from 1980. As Kevin explains, in a wordy, prolonged manner, just how much this album means to him, he also relates a Playboy mansion/bunny story where confusion between REO and REM caused a girl to quickly realize that she had asked to meet the wrong lead singer! That embarrassing-on-all-sides tale aside, ’Don’t Let Him Go,’ ‘Keep On Loving You,’ ‘Follow My Heart,’ ‘In Your Letter’ and finally, ’Take It On The Run’ are all sung, word for word, in their wonderful entirety.
A stripped down, acoustic – and therein lackluster - version of ’In My Dreams’ is given to us next, before they get back to doing what they do best with the song ’Time For Me To Fly.’ Finally, we have hit their show-stopping tune as the lit lighters go up, the screams abound, and the lyrics are reverberated back accordingly from the audience. The bassist is next into the spotlight singing the album track ’Back On The Road Again’ from their 1979 album, Nine Lives. In all honesty, he doesn’t look completely comfortable up there, his fixed, nervous grin more cheese than emotion, but he makes his way through it okay.
’Roll With The Changes’ takes the crowd to another frenzied level of enjoyment once more, and with the songs lyrics being put up on the screen behind the band, no one had an excuse for not joining in! ”Keep on rolling everyone. You are awesome” Cronin says as he waves goodbye, before coming back for the ’157 Revisited’ track that owes more to the blues than it does to rock! Intertwined with some ’Cat Scratch Fever’, the song twists and turns before bringing their portion of the show to a final halt.
For a lot of people, a Journey without Steve Perry is an Aerosmith without a Steven Tyler! And for the most part, this is a true assumption of the power of the band and its members. But, this new guy, Steve Augeri, that now fronts the powerhaus outfit is one hella fitting replacement for the crooked maestro. His looks, his stage mannerisms, even his voice are within a hair’s breath of being a karaoke version of the great Perry, but yet still he makes it clear that he is his own entity! Trust me though, anyone from the twentieth row back wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference come the end of the night!
Kicking their set of with tracks like ’Separate Ways (World’s Apart),’ ‘Stone In Love,’ and the beloved ‘Wheel In The Sky’, the band just tore it up from the start. Yet, and surprisingly, just as they had set the tempo for the night, they then brought forth a mysteriously guitar-solo version of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’! Not too sure why, but soon we were back on track with an old, old track introduced by Augeri as ’Let’s take you down to Dixie Highway …” - which is funny as the actual Dixie Highway is about 40 miles North of the very same building! ’Dixie Highway’ (complete with entire lyric sheets taped onto front stage!), ’Lights,’ (”It’s starts right here,” Augeri states), and ‘Open Arms.’ are all sung next.
The longed-for album track ‘Precious Time’ (from 1980’s Departure) enables Neal to break out the double neck white Gibson - capped on the 12 string half. A sight to behold if ever there was which is quickly followed by the also ultra-rare album track, ’Dead Or Alive’ - from the Escape album in 1981.
Then, just prior to another of their monster songs, Augeri asked the crowd, "Do you believe?" Then, as the song gets played, Kevin Cronin of REO joins him on stage for last part of 'Don't Stop Believin’ - prompting Augeri to say, "Kevin Cronin believes!" Ironically, a massive fight then broke out in the middle of the floor towards the end of 'Be Good To Yourself', but Journey went straight into 'Any Way You Want It' anyway while it was going down! More unseemly fights broke out, but the band still decided to come back for a quick encore to try and act as musical pacifiers. At one point, Augeri climbed out to the photo pit crates and greeted the audience while singing! Not once really addressing the fights, Augeri announced it was Journey's 30th Anniversary during the encore and the final song of the night, ’Faithfully' was played to the masses. Featuring photos of members of the road crew and their families, bus shots, etc. it was a fitting way to end a wonderful show, and a – save for the fights – wonderful nights entertainment.
Review and Photographs by Russell A. Trunk
Additional insight provided by Scott Baker