Foreigner and Journey at the Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion, 7/24/11

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Night Ranger, Foreigner, and Journey
Sunday, July 24
Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion

In all my years attending concerts at this pavilion (under its myriad names), I've never seen traffic like what we waded through before the Foreigner/Journey concert. Cars were still backed up and blocking the intersection at 83rd Avenue and McDowell an hour after the concert started. The upside of this surprising throng (who knew two bands who peaked in the '80s could still draw such a massive audience?) was this dude who flashed his man-boobs at the long queue of cars waiting to pull into the AFHSP. Dressed in cut-off jean shorts, a purple cut off T-shirt that read "I'm with the band," and sporting an orange and yellow ascot, mountain man beard, and big cop sunglasses, he danced around and yelled indecipherable things. I'm not sure if it was meant to be ironic, but it was freaking hilarious.

I was not one of the maybe 17,000 people who arrived in time to catch Night Ranger 's opening set, but that's okay, because the only song of theirs I wanted to hear was "Sister Christian." I was much more excited to see Foreigner, my all-time favorite band of the big '70s FM-era. I know and love all their many radio hits, and I was pleased to hear every single one of them (except "Blue Morning Blue Day") at the show.

Unfortunately, I was still waiting at will call (and then to get through security) for the first three songs of Foreigner 's set, which were "Double Vision," "Cold As Ice," and "Head Games." 

Things sounded much better when I got to my seat, during "Waiting for a Girl Like You." Current Foreigner singer Kelly Hansen sounded great, with a voice as strong and smooth as original vocalist Lou Gramm's. But his stage presence was more akin to Steven Tyler's -- tall and thing (and wearing skinny black jeans), he danced from one of the stage to another, occasionally adding rock star gestures like twirling his microphone stand and grabbing his crotch. During "Dirty White Boy," images of Elvis, James Dean, and Marlon Brando flashed across the backdrop screen and Hansen fondled and grabbed his ass with particular aplomb.

Hansen introduced guitarist and Foreigner co-founder Mick Jones, who told the audience, "This little ditty is what started off the band," before launching into "Feels Like the First Time." Jones showed his guitar chops were as sharp as ever, playing a bluesy guitar solo that lead into "Urgent." The song was boosted by the fiery saxophone solos of Thom Bimbel (also Foreigner's rhythm guitarist). People love a live, screaming saxophone. It's one of those chill-and-adrenaline inducing instruments. The crowd went nuts screaming and clapping as Bimbel did James Brown-like side steps and dropped to one knee while making his sax weep and wail.

The booming audience singalong and sea of swaying cell phones during "I Want to Know What Love Is" showed that people still dig a good power ballad, too. Foreigner ended their set with some rockin' tracks: "Hot Blooded" (during which Hansen jumped off stage and ran through the crowd, all the way up to the 200 sections), and encore of "Juke Box Hero" (complete with animated cartoon video on the background screen and a crap load of stroboscopic effects).

Foreigner set list:

Double Vision
Head Games
Cold As Ice
Waiting for a Girl Like You
Dirty White Boy
Feels Like the First Time
I Want to Know What Love Is
Hot Blooded
Encore: Juke Box Hero

Journey didn't play an all-hits set, choosing to mix some deeper cuts and new material with a handful of crowd favorites. They opened with one such favorite, "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)." I was immediately struck by how much lead vocalist Arnel Pineda sounded like former Journey singer Steve Perry. His voice didn't have as much rasp to it on the high notes, but Pineda hit all those notes right on the head, and then some. I haven't heard Perry sing lately, but I'd almost bet Pineda nails those Journey songs better than Perry would now.

Pineda's a little guy, lithe and toned, arms covered in colorful tattoos. He was a popular singer in his native Philippines before joining Journey, and he certainly knew how to work the crowd. He did a couple knee slides and sang to women in the audience. His energy and youthful looks really belie his age (43). He belted out great vocals for the familiar hits, like "Send Her My Love," and the newer songs as well, like "City of Hope" and "Edge of the Moment," from Journey's 2011 album Eclipse.

The lighting in the Phoenix sky started during "Who's Crying Now." Lead guitarist Neal Schon played a smokin' solo during the song, and another mesmerizing solo (with lots of clusters of high-pitched, fast notes) leading into "Stone in Love." The lightning continued for the next two songs, and by the time Journey started playing "Lights," it was clear a nasty storm was headed our way. As the wind started picking up and a light mist began to fall, a large percent of people on the lawn packed up and headed for the gates. They might have missed the maelstrom that came during the next number, "Wheel in the Sky," but I doubt it.

Journey sounded great, and up to that point, they'd played the same set list they used for the last few dates of the tour. Unfortunately, "Wheel in the Sky" turned into our walking-to-the-car song. Actually, it turned into our walking-to-the-car-in-a-torrential-downpour-screaming-with-a-bunch-of-other-fleeing-fans song. About a quarter of the crowd cleared out when we did, and I have to admit, I'm not sorry my friends and I left early. The "Wheel in the Sky" was just turning out too much icy rain and wind.

Journey set list:

Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
Ask the Lonely
City of Hope
Only the Young
Send Her My Love
Who's Crying Now
Stone in Love
Edge of the Moment
Wheel in the Sky
(The set list up to this point is the same as their July 21 show in Salt Lake City and their July 18 show in Omaha. The rest of that set list is below. If you were at the Phoenix show and the end of this set list was different, please let me know.)
Chain of Love
Open Arms
Be Good to Yourself
Don't Stop Believin'
Encore: Any Way You Want It

Last night: Foreigner and Journey at Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion

Better than: Boston, the last "classic rock" band I saw at the pavilion (around 2003).

Personal bias: I've wanted to see Foreigner since 1983...when I was 7.

The crowd: About 17,000 strong and mostly comprised of 40somethings. Lots of older guys in Journey T-shirts, and a few women in tie-dye and hot pink.

Overheard in the crowd: "There should not be this many fucking people here."

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