Concert Review: The Main Event
Styx, REO Speedwagon & Journey
I really do not know where to start talking about what a wonderful experience it was to see three of the best bands in the world perform together all in the same evening. I can understand why they decided to call it "The Main Event." First, I was extremely excited about seeing Styx again. I had not seen them play since 1976 when they were on their "Grand Illusion" tour. REO Speedwagon I saw last year with Kansas and knew that they put on great show. The only band that I had never had the pleasure of enjoying live was Journey.
My wife and I ended up on the floor right in dead center alignment with the stage, about 15 rows back. We also got an opportunity to meet Styx very briefly before they played. My eternal thanks go out to Chipster PR for arranging this evening with Styx management to make this all happen for me.
The night kicked off with REO Speedwagon getting everybody in a rocking mood. The bass player Bruce Hall was playing so prolifically that you could feel the force of the instrument pushing up against your body. At one point, I sat down for a few minutes to give my back a break. Of course, everyone had to stand, and I could then feel the bottom of my pants moving from the powerful bass. Hall should sing lead more often as he has a booming rock 'n' roll voice. Even though REO was fantastic, the sound mix was terrible. You could not hear Kevin Cronin's vocals, as they got lost in the overpowering volume of the instruments. The only time he sounded clear was when he sat at the piano for the ballads. Cronin is into audience interaction and he told some amusing stories during the course of their set. They played all of the hits and everyone joined in right on cue to sing along to every song.
When Styx came on it did not take long to see that they would rule the hearts of the crowd this evening. The sound mix was excellent and the band was in good form. The bass player, Glen Burtnik, went out into the crowd several times to sing and dance with anyone that wanted to. It all started with him performing the lead vocals on "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye" from the new album Cyclorama. The other new material performed was "Waiting for Our Time" and "Fields of the Brave." He would disappear so quickly that you would not even know it until you could hear the roar of the crowd and then watch the spotlight following him everywhere.
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What I found almost as entertaining was watching some of the interesting characters in attendance. Right next to us were three men; two middle aged, that were playing air guitar, drums and keyboards. It was quite funny, although my wife found herself ducking the flailing arms of the over enthusiastic fans.
I tip my hat to vocalist and keyboard player Lawrence Gowan, who is a great showman with a terrific voice that is reminiscent of the former front man Dennis De Young. Todd Sucherman, who is also a fine instrumentalist, proved to be masterful behind the drum kit. Tommy Shaw and JY Young sounded as good as ever and the latest version of Styx is as powerful as any lineup that they had in the past. The entire band kicked ass. It is beyond me why they are not the headliners on this tour.
Journey came on last to end this magical evening giving us another hour of reminiscing to reflect upon. Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain were instantly recognizable and the new lead singer, Steve Augeri, bore a slight resemblance to former front man Steve Perry. Augeri was very good, although he does not hold a candle to the great Steve Perry, and I do not think many singers could. As well as he did, he could not hold those high notes like the former front man. When the concert was over, I could overhear many conversations regarding this one all-important factor. Schon still rocks as hard as ever and he showed the crowd why Carlos Santana invited him to play in his band when he was a teenager. Schon played a spine tingling version of the "Star Spangled Banner," while images of the American flag and jets doing fly bys came up on the big screen behind the band.
Schon mentioned at one point that they were having problems onstage and I heard Cain say, "I can't hear the piano." Unfortunately, Journey would have similar difficulties with the sound mix as REO did and Augeri's vocals end up buried in a wall of sound. Although it was a topic of conversation on the way home from the venue, it seemed that it did not matter, as everyone was very happy with his or her experience. Journey gave us yet another superb greatest hits hour to enjoy.
I must make mention of the light and multi-media show that accompanied each set on the big screen in back of the bands. It added quite a bit to the overall experience, at least it did for me. There were some cool graphic images with up close shots of each band member, including superb overhead shots of each drummer in action. At times, I caught myself paying more attention to the screen than the bands playing in front of me.
This was a fun night that met just about all of my expectations as a music fan, as a critic there were some obvious shortfalls. When it was all over, I could honestly say that I would do it all over again, without hesitation.