Journey and Def Leppard: In Concert
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing one of this summer’s great double bills: Journey and Def Leppard.
It was a night of surprises … and the largest shock actually arrived well before Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge even opened its gates.
The band had announced earlier in the week that Steve Augeri—who has sung the band’s hits since Steve Perry and Journey went their separate ways eight years ago—would miss this Washington, DC-area show and at least several others due to a throat infection.
In his place stood Jeff Scott Soto, who had sung with Journey guitarist/mainstay Neal Schon in several projects but had never sung for Journey before this concert.
Needless to say, the crowd tingled with not only anticipation but also a touch of trepidation. Soto’s exceptional voice, however, provided the second surprise of the night; he nailed nearly every note that Perry had put on vinyl, even those approaching the stratosphere.
Journey—which has collected more than two-dozen top 100 hits in the US since the late 1970s—offered another shocker by starting the show with “Escape,” a relatively unknown album track from the 1981 album of the same name. From that point on, however, the group mostly put on a greatest hits show. The crowd screamed for favorites “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” “Any Way You Want It,” and the twin ballads that defined thousands of proms during the 1980s, “Open Arms” and “Faithfully.”
The band played the well-known tracks flawlessly, marred only by some irritating feedback during “Ask the Lonely” early in the show.
Schon and company have taken Journey in a far more commercial direction than one would have guessed from his time with Santana more than 30 years ago, but his playing offered flashes of guitar brilliance that justified the competition between Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana for Schon back when he was just a teenage prodigy.
The slowest moment in the set came when keyboardist Jonathon Cain sang lead on a song from the most recent Journey release, Generations. Although his performance wasn’t bad, it reminded fans why Cain doesn’t handle lead vocals more often.
After a brief intermission, Def Leppard took the stage to take the crowd on a virtual trip across the pond.
Those in the audience who held a love/hate relationship with the band for creating two of rock music’s best pop metal albums (1981’s High ‘N’ Dry and 1984’s Pyromania) but then morphing into pathetic purveyors of schlock almost twenty years ago had a nice surprise. The rockers from Sheffield threw them a bone with the opening song of the set, “Let It Go” from High ‘N’ Dry.
These old school fans then wretched, however, as the group turned to pop smash “Let’s Get Rocked,” from the 1992 album Adrenalize. Most of the crowd, of course, went nuts for the song.
Thankfully, the band did not subject the audience to other pop smashes like “Two Steps Behind” and “Have You Even Needed Someone So Bad” that would have slowed the show down.
Instead, Def Leppard focused on up-tempo hits like “Photograph,” “Foolin’,” and “Rock of Ages” from Pyromania. The band played fully half of 1987’s smash album Hysteria: “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Love Bites,” “Rocket,” “Armageddon It,” “Animal,” and the title track.
Joe Elliott’s vocals have held up much better than one might suspect after nearly 30 years of pop-metal screaming. His take on Badfinger’s “No Matter What,” a track from the group’s new album of covers, Yeah!, stayed close to the original and sounded great live.
Unless you looked at the frequent big-screen camera shots of drummer Rick Allen’s multi-tasking feet, his solid play might have made you forget about the car accident more than twenty years ago that led doctors to amputate his left arm and learn a new drumming technique.
The band closed with archetypal arena anthem “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” providing a final burst of energy and leaving the crowd as any good rock show should—wanting just a little bit more.
If the Journey/Def Leppard tour is coming to your area, see it. Whether you grew up with this music or discovered its joys after the two bands crested in the 1980s, you won’t be disappointed.