They could have named this the Facsimile Tour. Or the Get What You Came For Tour. Or the It’s the Songs, Not the Singer Revue.
Three bands came to Starlight Theatre on Wednesday night and drew nearly 8.000 fans – a complete sell-out – despite the fact that only one of the bands, Night Ranger, featured any of its original lead vocalists. The two others: Foreigner, which had no original members (guitarist Mick Jones called in sick), and Journey, which is down to two original members (and neither is vocalist Steve Perry, its heyday lead singer).
Tours like these are about resemblance, not authenticity. And for nearly four hours, including a few between set breaks, all three bands unleashed their biggest hits and best-known songs just the way everyone remembers them.
Night Ranger started 10 minutes early and delivered a 35-minute set, one that included a Damn Yankees song (“High Enough”) to commemorate Jack Blades’ time in that band. It also included Night Rangers monster ballad, “Sister Christian,” sung by drummer Kelly Keagy, who recorded it back in 1984.
Foreigner was next. Its lead singer is Kelly Hansen, who looks and acts a lot more like Steven Tyler of Aerosmith than founding lead singer Lou Gramm. Hansen’s vocal resemblance, however, is much stronger. He led the band through a greatest-hits set, starting off with “Double Vision and “Head Games” and ending about an hour later with “Juke Box Hero.” His rendition of “I’ve Been Waiting” was most convincing. The band brought on the Kearney High School Chamber Choir to add the choir vocals to its epic anthem “I Want to Know What Love Is,” which would inspire the loudest and longest and most earnest sing-along of the night. (It would have been even better if the choir had been mic’d a bit louder.) Right after “Dirty White Boy,” Hansen delivered the band intros, casually letting those who hadn’t already noticed that Bruce Watson was filling in for Jones on guitar. So, essentially, this was a glorified tribute band. And, essentially, no one really cared; everything sounded just like it used to.
Journey was the headliner. Its latest lead singer, Arnel Pineda, 44, a native of the Philippines, joined the band in 2007 after a YouTube video generated some serious interest. He is a dead-ringer for Perry, vocally, generating a sound that belies his slight frame. Imagine a guy the size of Dexter McCluster running with the power of Bo Jackson. That’s kind of what Pineda does. He led the band through a 90-minute set that comprised 16 songs, most of them among the most-played ballads and anthems on radio in the early 1980s: “Separate Ways,” “Faithfully,” “Lights,” “Open Arms” and the rejuvenated, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” a song seems to be more beloved (and overplayed) now than when it was a hit.
Pineda’s on-stage personae is more cheerleader than rock god. He bounces a lot and claps and waves his arms. He also shows deference to his colleagues, especially guitarist Neal Schon, the longest-running member of the band. He is a guitar maestro who is not shy about showing off his speed and nimbleness. His shredding got excessive, but his intro to “Wheel In The Sky,” which included his blowing air onto his strings, was impressive. Multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Cain also had several chances to show off is skills; none was better than his keyboard intro to “Opens Arms.” The huge crowd was loud and animated throughought, whether Journey was powering through a rock anthem like “Separate Ways” or slow-dancing to a ballad like “Faithfully.” During that one, some folks couldn’t inhibit their inner-rock star.
Journey ended with three songs nearly everyone knew every word to: “Any Way You Want It,” “Believin’” and “Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin’” During that one, the closing hail of “na na na na nas” coincided with a brief fireworks show, which added another jolt of glee to the wave of nostalgia rolling through the place – memories provoked all night by the songs, not necessarily the guys singing them.