Journey and Def Leppard
September 21, 2018
Photos by Raymond Ahner.
On a recent Friday night, one of the summer’s largest concert tours made its stop in the Bay Area, as Journey and Def Leppard both delivered some seriously rocking sets to a packed crowd at AT&T Park.
Both bands have mastered the art of stadium concerts, with plenty of bombast to go along with some exceptional musicianship.
Journey headlined the evening with a powerful set that drew from all of their massive hits from the 70s and 80s, with the band in fine form. The band opened with the surging rock of “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” with Jonathan Cain’s keyboards providing the perfect counterpoint to Neal Schon’s fiery guitar playing.
Frontman Arnel Pineda sounded in fine form, belting out all the high notes to songs like “Escape” and “Stone in Love” and working the packed crowd. A few songs later Schon busted out a wild, unaccompanied guitar solo demonstrating all sorts of technical feats before dedicating the next song to his friend, former Journey vocalist Steve Perry. He told the story of how he and Perry wrote this song together in the span of a half hour before he played the opening chords to the fan-favorite “Lights.” The song, written about San Francisco, got a huge reaction from the crowd as thousands of people pulled out their phones and their lighters to hold up.
After a brief piano solo from Cain, the band rolled through an inspired version of “Who’s Crying Now,” a song driven by a snappy piano line and some slick bass lines from Ross Valory. What makes Journey such a formidable and powerful stadium band is the high energy they bring to each song. While it would be easy for a band in their 45th year to simply phone it in, Journey seemed intent to give their hometown fans an amazing show.
Next up was the gorgeous ballad “Open Arms,” where Pineda really got to show off his vocal chops, reaching the upper end of his range with ease. The song had the whole audience singing along, particularly during its powerful chorus.
Drummer Steve Smith got to show off his impeccable chops on the next song as the band rolled through the driving “La Do Da” before Smith broke into a drum solo. Unlike many rock drum solos, Smith was able to hold the audience’s attention as he ripped through a jazzy series of drum rolls and other wild drum techniques before the band came back in to finish the song.
After another mind-blowing guitar solo from Schon, Journey closed out the night with their biggest hits in the form of the beautiful ballad “Faithfully” and the rock anthem “Don’t Stop Believin’.” The crowd responded to both with a loud roar and an even louder sing along.
It was a fitting end to a high-energy night full of powerful stadium rock and proof once again that Journey remain one of the top live acts in the world.
Despite a power issue that stalled the beginning of their set, Def Leppard brought the hits, delivering an incredible set packed with massive guitar riffs and soaring vocals. The band opened with the unstoppable combination of “Rocket” and “Animal,” two mega-hits from their 80s heyday and two songs that were meant to be played in a massive sports stadium. Next up was another massive rocker in the form of “Foolin’,” in which Joe Elliot got to show off his still-impressive vocal range. What takes Def Leppard to the next level in the live arena is the fact that guitarists Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen, along with bassist Rick Savage, all perform strong backing vocals to all of the songs. This gives a massive sound to the vocals, and really projects the vocal hooks.
A few songs later, Elliot remarked to the crowd that it has been 38 years since the band first played San Francisco and how happy they were to be back playing to such a receptive audience before launching into an inspired version of the swaggering “Let’s Get Rocked.” After a brief break, Elliot announced that the band would be doing a cover of a David Essex song, the stomping “Rock On” a song anchored by a precise and snappy bass line from Savage.
Halfway through the set, the band rolled out some of their signature ballads such as “Love Bites” and “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak.” However, it was a particularly touching rendition of “Hysteria” that really made for a high point of the evening. With a massive video screen behind them showing old archival footage of the band performing the song, Def Leppard ripped through “Hysteria,” with Collen dishing out some sweet guitar leads.
Eventually, the band broke into a short rendition of the chorus from the David Bowie song “Heroes,” which made for another exciting moment. The band ended the main portion of their set with the swaggering pop-rock of “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” a sprawling rock anthem and one of the definitive songs of the 80s. Driven by a grooving beat from Rick Allen along with some sizzling guitar riffs, the song really got the crowd engaged.
Def Leppard returned for a brief 2-song encore of two early smash hits in “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph.”
Setlist: Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) | Only the Young | Escape | Stone in Love | Be Good to Yourself | Neal Schon Guitar Solo #1 | Lights | Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ | Jonathan Cain Piano Solo | Who’s Crying Now | Open Arms | La Do Da (with Steve Smith drum solo) | Any Way You Want It | Neal Schon Guitar Solo #2 | Wheel in the Sky | Faithfully | Don’t Stop Believin’
Find out more about Journey here.
Setlist: Rocket | Animal | Foolin’ | When Love and Hate Collide | Let’s Get Rocked | Armageddon It | Rock On (David Essex cover) | Two Steps Behind | Man Enough | Love Bites | Bringin’ on the Heartbreak | Switch 625 | Hysteria | Pour Some Sugar on Me || Encore || Rock of Ages | Photograph
Check out Def Leppard on their website.