Saturday’s show at the Sprint Center was a journey into the depths of three decades of music, and more than 13,000 fans were there for the long, nostalgic ride.
The opener was Dave Mason, whose music history goes back the 1960s and bands and artists like Traffic, Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison and Mason’s own solo career. His set included two Traffic songs, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and “Feelin’ Alright” (a song made more famous by Joe Cocker), plus a cover of “All Along the Watchtower.” (Mason played a 12-string guitar on the studio version of Hendrix’s famous cover.)
Mason was followed by the Doobie Brothers, classic-rock mainstays in the 1970s into the 1980s.
The Doobies, who featured the biggest band of the night, including two drummers, spent an hour steamrolling through their catalog. They are led by founding members Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons; both handled most of the vocal duties. They were backed by longtime member John McFee, who added guitar, violin, blues harp and background vocals throughout; and Bill Payne, co-founder of Little Feat, a ringer on keyboards. Marc Russo was also busy on various saxophones.
They primed the crowd by opening with three of their biggest hits: “Jesus Is Just Alright,” “Rockin’ Down the Highway” and “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While).” They then pulled out some deep album cuts, like “Dark Eyed Cajun Woman” and “Eyes of Silver.”
The presentation was austere and straightforward. They played before a large band logo and rolled from one song to the next. The mustachioed Johnston played the role of cheerleader, pumping a fist and coaxing the crowd into sing-alongs. A few songs were loaded with instrumental jams, like “Takin’ It to the Streets,” the lone Michael McDonald song of the set.
They closed with more hits, including “China Grove” (Payne played keyboards on the studio version) and “Listen to the Music,” which prompted another hearty sing-along and prepped the crowd for the headliner, a rock band that put a slew of songs on the Billboard charts for nearly 10 years, starting in the late 1970s and into the 1980s.
Journey brought a smaller band but delivered significantly more thunder. Lead singer Arnel Pineda has been Steve Perry’s replacement for 10 years now, and he appears completely comfortable in his role and sounds as much like the heyday Perry as ever.
During their 90-minute set, guitarist Neal Schon, keyboardist Jonathan Cain and drummer Steve Smith were given plenty of spotlight. During one solo, Schon played a version of “Taps” that he fused with “The Star-Spangled Banner.” A couple of songs got too jammy, like “Stone in Love,” but for the most part, instrumentals were brief and to the point.
The set list was one long salvo of hits, starting with “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” which opened the show, and “Only the Young,” “Any Way You Want It,” “Open Arms,” “Who’s Crying Now,” “Faithfully,” which started some slow-dancing on the floor and in the seats, and, possibly the most popular arena-rock anthem ever, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” during which a blizzard of confetti fell upon the crowd on the floor. The sing-along to that was uproarious.
They closed with “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin,’ ” their first Top 20 hit, going back to 1979 — nearly four decades ago. And, like most of the music that filled the arena Saturday night, it induced another gust of warm nostalgia.
Doobie Brothers: Jesus Is Just Alright; Rockin’ Down the Highway; Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While); Dark-Eyed Cajun Woman; Eyes of Silver; Spirit; Sweet Maxine; Takin’ It to the Streets; The Doctor; Black Water; Long Train Runnin’; I Cheat the Hangman; China Grove; Without You; Listen to the Music.
Journey: Separate Ways (Worlds Apart); Be Good To Yourself; Only the Young; Stone In Love; Any Way You Want It; Line of Fire; Lights; Open Arms; Who’s Crying Now; Escape; La Do Da; Dead or Alive; Wheel in the Sky; Faithfully; Don’t Stop Believin’; Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.