Sunday, June 1, 2014

Review: Journey at Raleigh, NC - Walnut Creek Amphitheatre - 05.29.2014

With my virtual Bic during "Lights."
First off, I wasn't sure that I was going to make this concert of my fave band because 1) I'm never sure how my rheumatoid arthritis will act up - nights out are a rarity for me these days, particularly a weeknight, and 2) I wasn't sure that I could snare decent tickets close to the stage, since I love to take pics and video.

But I'm a long-time fan of all eras of the band, so I wasn't going to let my chronic pain stop me. I was able to take the earlier part of the day to get some rest, load up on liniments and put on my knee braces, elbow sleeves, and wraps on my hands and thumbs and headed off with Kate to the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre to see Journey, with openers Tower of Power and The Steve Miller Band (both put on fantastic, energetic sets). A snippet of TOP:

Short clip of "What is Hip" by Tower of Power (@pow... on Twitpic

Re: the tickets, since the date was on a Thursday night, I actually snared great seats at face value on Sunday. I was in Section 1 (Neal's side of the stage, 3 rows back).


The Review

Journey's set list at the Raleigh, NC stop didn't deviate from any of the other 2014 dates -- the Dirty Dozen (most hits people know), plus two tracks from 2011's Eclipse:

Be Good to Yourself
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
Any Way You Want It
Only the Young
The Star-Spangled Banner
(John Stafford Smith cover) (Neal Schon)
Stone in Love
Mother, Father
(Deen Castronovo on lead vocals)
She's a Mystery
Piano Solo - (Jonathan Cain)
(Medley of Patiently, When You Love A Woman, Why Can't This Night Go On Forever, several other hits)
Open Arms
La Do Da
Guitar Solo
Wheel in the Sky
Don't Stop Believin'
Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'

As I said in an earlier essay (A Journey fan's dream deep cuts setlist -- that means no DSB, peeps), I'd rather see the band do an "evening with" smaller tour where they change it up, marketed for the hardcore fans and cover ground in the vast Journey catalog of fantastic lesser-known hits and great "unknown" compositions.

But this tour is about the casual fans of the Greatest Hits, and so we have the above setlist; the house and lawn were packed, and enthusiastically singing along and cheering the band. I was particularly interested in how they would render the Eclipse songs - Ritual and She's a Mystery -- and how the crowd would respond. Those are the two songs that I recorded in full.

The good:
1) Tremendous energy this time around from all of the band members on stage (Arnel Pineda, vocals; Neal Schon on lead guitar; Jonathan Cain on keys, rhythm guitar, Ross Valory on bass, and Deen Castronovo on drums). When I saw them in 2012 in Greensboro toward the end of that leg of the U.S. tour, aside from Arnel and Deen, the others seemed quite tired and low-energy.

On Thursday they really revved up the audience.

2) Stagecraft and visuals -- multiple screens with interesting live shots of the band during songs (and fan-submitted photos during "Faithfully), alternating with other eye-catching images.

3) Arnel and Neal know how to work the crowd: Good interaction along with the energy is a huge plus that I have always enjoyed.

The could-be-better:
1) Sound: Tower of Power and the Steve Miller Band were bell-clear, and sonically right on point from where we sat. However, the moment Journey came on, people in my section were visibly in shock at the contrast -- a lot of distortion, with guitar too up-front, and even brief mic drop-off on several songs, not only Arnel, but notably Jonathan Cain during Anytime. The distortion on Separate Ways and the Star Spangled Banner in particular was almost painful. Mother Father seemed a bit better on this front. It's such a shame, really, and clearly it wasn't Walnut Creek's system at fault here. Hopefully this was an isolated issue; it remains to be seen if anyone else reports issues on the tour.

Of course, I can only speak for what it sounded like in my section; folks elsewhere or on the lawn may not have experienced what I did.

However, I managed to enjoy the show regardless, since I got great pics and vid. You can see my album here. (All photos and video captured with a point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 with 21x zoom)


She's a Mystery (had a camera glitch and missed a couple of seconds around :37):

This is a song with a non-traditional structure, it starts out straight mid-tempo ballad with simple guitar lead; people didn't quite know what to make of it in my section as it followed the pulsing "Mother Father" by Deeno. Most people stayed to listen and take it in, though. It appeared they thought the song was over when it transitioned abruptly to its scorching, amped-up rocker tempo; that indicated they didn't know the song, which is a shame; Eclipse is a great album, and a good showcase for Arnel's original voice and contributions to the band as it exists now.


This great little rocker went over well; had the audience curious. Arnel and the band definitely looked jazzed doing something other than the Dirty Dozen.


The other "experience" at the concert

An aside about the concert experience as someone now experiencing increasing physical disability; I was completely spent and hurting after the Journey concert, but it was a rare night out that provided a couple of hours of time to get back to something that I enjoyed immensely -- taking pix and vids while enjoying my fave band. I've had to permanently give up so much to this disease, from my political blog, my weekends and evenings since the job saps what energy I have left, the ability to travel unassisted, etc. It's unrelenting.

The fantasy getaway of those few hours of fun at Walnut Creek came crashing down when that woman nearly pushed me down on the ground for "walking too slow" on the way out and that "it's not hard to just walk" (did she not see my knees braces or that I was limping/dragging my left leg?!), affected me profoundly. I just buried myself in editing the pix and vid since it was hard to sleep.

The fact is that this woman that nearly pushed me to the ground just moved on, unaware that she said or did anything hurtful or ignorant. She was simply blissfully unaware of all that could befall her one day in terms of infirmity. To some extent we all are blinded, since thinking about losing physical abilities is why we often avoid those challenged with disabilities (or, rather, render them invisible). I was just humiliated by this woman, who didn't want to or care to understand the obvious, since I was inconveniencing her. I get that elsewhere nowadays, limping on a crosswalk and stopped drivers impatient and gunning their engines to continue as if I'm purposefully robbing them of a few extra seconds of precious forward momentum. I can only imagine what the more severely challenged deal with from the general public.

Food for thought.

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