Thursday, September 25, 2008

Journey, Heart, and Cheap Trick at the Concord Pavilion

Imani told me she tried out for a play earlier this week and says she missed the callback, which means she didn't make it. This is her first try at it. I'm really hoping she doesn't get discouraged and gives up.

Her drama teacher said she needs to attend at least one organized play per semester, be it a at a high school, amateur, or a big, professional production. I was thinking about "Spring Awakening" but I don't know if the girls would want to. I need to show them the commercial for it. I intended to go by the theatre downtown to see what they were performing while I was out walking the dogs, but it slipped my mind while I was down there. Last time I checked it was, "Evil Dead, the Musical". How bad could it be?

I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow. I'm off at 5:30, the debate (if McCain doesn't manage to wiggle his way out of it) is at 6, and there's cake and ice cream for Jess tomorrow.

Okay, the Journey concert last night was great! I've gotta tell you about it.

Cheap Trick opened the show. It was great to see the classic lineup together. Robin Zander (vocals), Rick Nielsen (guitar), Bun E. Carlos (drums) and Tom Peterssen (bass). They played all their classics, bringing out Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain to help out on "The Flame" and "Surrender" to end the set. When they came out for their encore they were also joined by Journey drummer Deen Castronovo to help out on vocals as they performed "Dream Police". Robin Zander's voice didn't disappoint. Rick Nielsen's guitar solos were kinda disappointing in that his playing was a little sloppy. I was really looking forward to seeing Nielsen's 5-neck guitar. He mostly played a Les Paul and didn't bring out the 5-neck until the end, but that was good enough for me.

The changeover between sets was much shorter than I had expected and missed the beginning of Heart's set. When I got back they were playing "Magic Man". They also did not disappoint. Ann Wilson is the truly great vocalists in rock history. She was every bit as good as live as she has been on all those classic albums. There aren't many singers I can think of that can sing "Barracuda" with so many high notes with so much power. Nancy Wilson hasn't lost it either. She's older, but still a hottie. Her high-note harmonies with Ann were spot on. She came out with a mandolin and started playing a somewhat muted version of "These Dreams" that slowly built its way up. I had forgotten how much I loved that song. They finished their set with a cover of the Who's "Reign Over Me" which launched into "Barracuda" to end it. For their encore they played a Zeppelin song whose title escapes me and finally ended with "Crazy on You". My only disappointment was that they didn't play "The Dog and the Butterfly".

One of my Facebook friends is my best friend Jennifer's niece, Joy. I saw this morning that she had updated her Facebook with "back from seeing Heart and Journey with Aunt Jena! All of the Philippines showed up, including grandma!" One of the things I can say about the Filipino community here in the Bay Area is that they definitely support their own. When Karen and I went to Las Vegas last year we saw The Society of Seven at Flamingo. They're a group from Hawaii that do a stage show with lots of very good cover songs. One of its new members was a stunningly talented singer named Lani Misalucha, who was born in the Philippines. When I mentioned her at work all my Filipino co-workers knew who she was.

In a similar vein, when I learned of Journey's new Filipino singer, Arnel Pineda, my co-workers knew who he was as well. And just like Joy said the Filipino community was there last night in force to show him support. I'm guessing the sold out crowd was a good 30-40% Filipinos.

Arnel's got a great rags-to-riches story that will bring a tear to your eye. CBS Sunday Morning had a great profile on him. You really find yourself rooting for him, but it isn't charity. He has earned every single word of praise.

Journey started their set with "Never Walk Away", my favorite song from their new album. They didn't miss any of their classic hits. "Stone in Love", "Separate Ways", "Wheel in the Sky", "Open Arms". The entire house sung along with "Don't Stop Believin'". It's corny, but you just couldn't help yourself. When Arnel begins "Lights" with those first few words, "When the lights go down in the City and the sun shines on the Bay," there was just no way you could stop yourself from raising a lighter.

Arnel has been the perfect replacement for Journey's original singer, Steve Perry. He really sounds just like the original. I swear if you close your eyes and just listened you wouldn't be able to tell them apart. It must have been great for Arnel the first time he said to the crowd that it was great to be back home. As far as Journey the band goes they are, of course, from San Francisco so this was a homecoming for them. But for Arnel, he must have known how many Filipinos were there in the crowd. He must have known how many of those cheers were for him and were genuine.

As for me, Journey's guitarist Neal Schon has been one of my all-time favorites. He's a real hero to me. Neal's career on the big stage began when he joined Santana when he was just fifteen years old. He can play blazingly fast and can keep up with any speed demon guitarist you can think of and yet have so much emotion in his phrasing on the slower songs. In my opinion he's one of the most underrated guitarists in rock and roll history. It was an absolute joy to see him play live and in person.

Near the end of your set Arnel introduced the band members one-by-one and they all got the big cheers they deserved but the biggest cheer went to Arnel. I was genuinely happy for him. His performance last night was brilliant. He earned those cheers.

Our age got the best of us and we left after they played "Any Way You Want It". We left as they were playing "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'". We never did get to see what they played for their encore. That was my only real regret of the evening. This was probably the best concert I've attended in 10 years.

Imagine how good it would make you feel to know that Michael Jordan could still split two defenders to make a lay-in, or that Magic Johnson could still deliver a no-look pass, or that Joe Montana could still hit a tight end on a tightrope sideline pass. That was how I felt seeing these three bands. After all these years they all looked and sounded just as good as they did in their prime.

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