Def Leppard wsg/ Journey
(DTE Energy Theatre, Clarkston, MI – July 24th, 2006)
'Jeff Scott Soto to assume Journey lead singer duties starting on July 7th in Bristow, VA due to Steve Augeri throat infection.'
That was the news that greeted a shocked musical Journey nation. The knowledge that their newly-beloved Augeri was down and out for the count and was to be replaced by a completely different style of singer was definitely one to gossip about.
I mean sure during its initial 14 years of existence (1973-1987), Journey altered its musical approach and its personnel extensively whilst still becoming a world class band. But this was touring season 2006 and without Perry - and now without the tangential vocals of Augeri - how would the band sound?
Well, tonight in front of a packed open air audience - opening up for British giants Def Leppard - for the most part all the questions were answered.
Taking the stage unannounced, the smiling, black sunglasses-wearing Neal Schon grabbed his guitar and belted out the national anthem in his usual emphatic style. Come its finale and the rest of the band made their way to the stage. With Jonathan Cain introducing Jeff Scott Soto to the baying crowd, it was quickly evident that for the most part: 1) this was the first that they were aware that Augeri was not singing tonight, and 2) that they had no idea who Soto was!
With nothing initially being said between songs by any member of the band, Soto and co. veritably breezed through the short set - 'Stone In Love,' 'Ask The Lonely,' 'Edge of Reason,' 'Wheel In The Sky,' 'Who's Cryin' Now,' and 'Chain Reaction.'
Just before we enter into 'Lights,' Soto finally breaks his silence, "Thank you Detroit, for making this the best summer of my life." With Soto's vocal's not as fitted to these high-pitched lyrics as both Perry and Augeri, it was obvious that some notes were not going to be made. That was more than evident during both this song and 'Open Arms' as notes were attempted and yet failed each time.
But let's not take away from his stage presence as he definitely has one. Albeit completely different to that of Augeri, Soto prowls the stage, eats it up, covers it endlessly for the audience. And yes his hugging and stage theatrics with his 'new' band members is a little over the top, but he is just trying to fit in.
'Escape' provides us with the chance to appreciate his vocal strengths the best thus far, but with the bass music turned noticeably up higher than usual, it unfortunately drowns out a lot of his good work. 'Dead Or Alive' is next which Soto precedes to sing most of standing behind drummer Deen Castronovo, but by now the crowd is quiet, restless, perhaps mulling over for the hundredth time if Soto was indeed the right choice.
And speaking of Castronovo, man when that dude sings he SINGS! His voice on 'Faithfully' is pitch perfect and has everyone hands together in appreciation long after the song has ended. Perhaps HE should have come front stage to sing on this tour?! 'Don't Stop Believin' finally brings the best out of Soto and also the show to a close.
Opening the two song encore with 'Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),' Soto truly saved his best vocals for last on a seamlessly blended-into-'Separate Ways' powerhaus version of 'Any Way You Want It.'
Def Leppard, in many ways, was the 'definitive' hard rock band of the '80s. There were many bands that rocked harder, and were more dangerous, than the Sheffield (UK) quintet, but few others captured the spirit of the times quite as well.
Taking the stage to the pounding beats of Queens 'We Will Rock You,' the evening sun finally beginning to dip behind the sell-out crowd, the band members came out one by one from high atop the stage set up; all smiles, some chatting amongst themselves, their love for their art evident to all.
Kicking off the show with a cut from their new covers album Yeah!, the band raced through Sweet's 'Hellraiser' before cranking things up immediately with 'Let's Get Rocked,' 'Let It Go,' and 'Bringin' On The Heartbreak.' Within the first few bars of the first song, Phil Cohen becomes shirtless and stays that way for the entire show. Joe Elliott introduces the next song with "Here's one to keep you coming back," and then they unleash their cover of 'No Matter What.'
With video screens continually showing old black and white photos of the band when they were mere wannabe rock 'n' roller kids, the band do admittedly look older this year. And for one disturbing reason or another bassist Rick Savage seems to be taking on the visually physical characteristics of a young Ozzy Osbourne - save for the fact that he wears white and Ozzy, well, ... doesn't!
Adding a prolonged dueling guitar segment every now and again, some songs seemed to be stretched a wee bit too much, but songs like 'Rocket,' 'Photograph,' 'Armageddon It,' and 'Animal' all served to bring the crowd to their feet, screaming each and every lyric as if their lives depended on it! Closing with 'Rock Of Ages,' Elliott says farewell to the crowd, "Thank you very much. Hey, we've got something to say ... it's better to burn out then fade awaaaaaaay!" The crowd goes ballistic and even more so as Vivian Campbell has now rejoined the throng shirtless also!
As we await their arrival back to the stage for the encore, the words 'Yeah!' light up across the back of the stage in bright flashing yellow. Savage thanks everyone for coming down to see them before the band launches into 'Love Bites.' The expected finale song of 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' wraps the proceedings up on a high and takes everyone home on a wave of happiness.
Review & Photos by Russell A. Trunk