Sunday, 5 June 2011

Journey with Foreigner and Styx at Wembley Arena

It was my first time seeing any of these famous AOR and melodic rock old stagers and whilst the ticket cost me £50 which is a bit steep for my tight pockets but alas this is a big gig and when these guys come calling you've got to give them the time of day however hard it hits your pocket! First of all I should say I am not a huge or massive fan of any of these bands to be honest. My fandom for AOR and melodic rock is based around newer bands rather than the classic oldies. Of course these three are giants of the genre back in the day and have a huge old time following even now although the two supports less so here than Journey who are riding a crest of a wave thanks to a program on the telly called Glee or something and also some dude singing their anthem Don't Stop Believin' on X Factor a couple of years ago.

Must say the Wembley Arena was pretty much packed out for this all seater event which was must have been pleasing to see for all three bands as they came out for their sets. My seat was about as far away from the stage as it's possible to be but at least it was quite high up and head on, so I didn't need to twist my neck like the people sat at the sides. First up were Styx whose pomptastic style is somewhat different to the straight ahead style of the other two bands. Near enough the whole of the band either sang lead or backing vocals at one point during their set which shows their versatility off very well. Can't say I knew all the songs at all although I do know we didn't get the pretty bad Babe! The vocals were top notch from Tommy Shaw and Lawrence Gowan the keys guy. The songs are somewhat recognisable from my deep memory though it's been years and years since any Styx music passed my lugholes. They warmed the crowd up nicely and the Wembley Arena acoustics were for once on good behaviour as the band sounded pretty much crystal clear. Come Sail Away seemed to garner the best response from the crowd although I enjoyed opener The Grand Illusion most of all as it was very pomptastic indeed.
  1. The Grand Illusion
  2. Too Much Time On My Hands
  3. Lady
  4. Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
  5. Miss America
  6. Blue Collar Man
  7. Come Sail Away
  8. Renegade

After a 20 minute change around the lights went down and it was time for Foreigner and boy did they please this happy old time crowd. Their sound was once again pretty much perfect with with Mick Jones' guitar work the star of the show. They played pretty a much an expected greatest hits setlist which left every old time Foreigner fan happy. I wouldn't say I was a Foreigner fan but these guys really delivered. Sure the old timers would probably say it's not the same without Lou Gramm but I think the current singer Kelly Hansen does an amazing job on the mic to be honest. He hits exactly the same notes that Lou used to only with way more power. Although i must admit he doesn't sing I Want To Know What Love Is quite as good as Lou used to, but the rockers he nails. Urgent was killer as was Cold As Ice. Only song missing from their set was I've Been Waiting For a Girl Like You which was strangely omitted not that I cared but I'm sure a few Foreigner diehards did. their set ended with a rousing and a seemingly extended version of their hit anthem Jukebox Hero. These guys maybe old but they still know how to rock.

Video clip from Cold As Ice -

Finally at around 9.30 or so the house lights went down again and it was time for every one's fave old time rock band to deliver the goods again. What a masterstroke they pulled in starting off with mine and probably most people's fave Journey song of all time! This is the way to start the show however there were a few slight sound issues which made the bass too loud and distorted a touch but the song was sung with amazing power by the little waspish frontman Arnel. The crowd at the front was mostly stood and going at it with full force and if the seats weren't down they would have probably started a little geriatric moshpit!

The sound soon settled down once the sound guy got the levels right and became a tour de force of power and melody for the band. The band sounded truly energised and happy to be playing for the thousands gathered and were keen to air new songs from Eclipse which I have found to be a rather disappointing album in truth however I will admit that i rather enjoyed the live rendition of songs such as Chain of Love and Resonate in particular as Arnel really outdid himself with his powerful delivery.

Having said all that this was a night of a million and one notes and all of them belonging to Neal Schon! The guy was literally spitting fire from his axe all night. In fact I though I was at an Yngwie show for a second or two he solo-ed so long and hard on most songs. His guitar cut through the mix like razorsharp shards of glass and he pulled more shapes than you'd believe! If you were a fan of Neal's guitar acrobatics you'd be in heaven however I do believe that most of these people were here for the classics and not a wankathon on the guitar.

However don't think I'm taking away from Journey's overall performance because it was pretty much flawless. In Arnel they have found the frontman of their dreams. The guy is like a little Tasmanian Devil come Whirling Dervish all rolled into one all topped with an amazing vocal delivery which is pretty much faultless.

A mention of Dean Castronovo on the drums, not only can he play wicked but his lead vocals on Mother, Father was great as well. He could have been the singer full time had they not found Arnel. My only gripe about the show apart from Schon's extended soloing was the lack of material from previous album Revelation. I love that album a lot and much more than Eclipse but hey this is the Eclipse tour and with so many classics to play as well there's only so much you can fit in so I had to accept this situation. The latter parts of the setlist was completely given over to the hits and the crowd really got into it having been a little bit restrained during the new songs. In the end Journey had to give them what they wanted in the end. A great show by three classic rock bands.
  1. (Deen Castronovo on lead vocals)
  2. Encore:

Separate Ways live clip -
Faithfully -


Michael Bailey said...

We were in the central floor section about half way back. Styx were pompous and fun to watch and played their hearts out, Foreigner were the best for me and really rocked the place, although it was Journey I had gone to see. Journey played a good set and played it well but were far too loud and it was a real struggle to hear Neil in the mix. I saw The Who over three decades ago and they nearly blew us all out of the back wall of the Bingley Hall. That was much louder than this but the sound was clear, that's the difference. Everyone in front of us stood up way too early as well ! But overall it was a fantastic show. Great photos, thanks for posting this! :)

Michael Bailey said...

Whoops, sorry, I meant Neal not Neil of course!

Pirage said...

Thanks for your comments Michael. The sound was too loud for Journey indeed but I think it got much better after they sorted out the bass which was distorting badly. Whilst Schon's rhythm parts were a little difficult to pick out, his lead and solos sounded crystal clear to me although I was seated back and head on and maybe that made a difference. I agree that Foreigner stole the show a bit although Arnel was the best singer of the night for me.