WEST VALLEY CITY — If you remember slow dancing at prom to “Open Arms” or driving with the top down while cranking “Stone In Love,” Friday night was a likely a trip down memory lane for you.
It was a triple bill straight out of 1981 at the USANA Amphitheatre with Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy taking a full house on a nostalgic trip through many of the audience members’ junior high and high school years.
Journey hit the stage with “Anyway You Want It” and ripped through 90 minutes of crowd pleasing anthems from the late 70s and early 80s, including, “Faithfully,” “Wheel in the Sky,” “Send Her My Love” and “Lights.”
Backed by a half dozen large digital screens and dozen smaller ones hanging from the rafters, lead singer Arnel Pineda, original members Neal Schon and Ross Valory and longtime keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Jonathan Cain dusted off some of the band’s deeper tracks in “Only the Young,” Ask the Lonely” and “Chain Reaction” off 1983′s Frontiers album.
Pineda and his youthful energy did his best to play cheerleader – running, jumping and dancing around the stage, and high-fiving and fist bumping with fans. Deen Castronovo sat behind a huge arsenal drums which somehow managed to stay together despite the punishing blows delivered from the hard-hitting drummer. Schon never missed an opportunity to throw in a guitar solo, and showed why even after 40 years of playing professionally he’s still one of rock’s most talented axemen.
While Journey’s set was very good, last year’s show at Rio Tinto was a better performance. Small technical problems plagued the band throughout the set as both Schon and Pineda both seemed to have sound problems at different points and kept looking over at the crew at the soundboard at the side of the stage. It seemed to be just enough to throw them off ever so slightly.
Still, it wasn’t enough that it would have distracted from the show for the average fan. And Journey deserves huge props for mixing up the set list and not falling into the trap so many veteran bands do of playing the same songs in the same order year after year.
Journey played a non-Perry era song with, “City of Hope” off Eclipse. But the bigger crowd reactions came from songs off 1981′s Escape, including the title track.
Journey ended strong with some of their biggest anthems, “Don’t Stop Believin,” “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” “Be Good To Yourself” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin.”
Opening act Pat Benatar proved that you don’t need a large stage production to deliver an outstanding rock show. All you need is an awesome guitarist, and the voice of Pat Benatar.
Backed by the minimalist of stage props (not even a banner hanging from the rear of the stage with her name on it) Benatar killed it on the USANA stage Friday night. Even at age 59, her voice was solid and dynamic.
Benatar and her longtime guitarist/husband, Neil “Spyder” Giraldo – married now for 30 years – ripped through songs of the early 80s when Benatar was the queen of MTV, including “You Better Run,” “Promises in the Dark,” a crowd pleasing “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” - a song that she has mentioned on numerous occasions she isn’t fond of singing but does it for the fans – and songs from later in the 80s such as “All Fired Up” and “Invincible.”
Giraldo didn’t show any effects from an accident that sidelined him for awhile and forced the band to cut short last year’s tour, looking as strong as ever on his solos.
“Love is a Battlefield” and “We Belong” were other crowd pleasers. Benatar ended the night with “Let’s Stay Together” from the Wide Awake in Dreamland album and “Hearbreaker” mixed with Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
The only criticism of Benatar’s set was it was all too short. There were at least a half-dozen more songs she could have played – and she had the vocal power to sing another two hours – though the band seemed to be rushing to finish their set on time. Hopefully Benatar and crew will make a return trip to Utah soon.
The night opened with Canadian rockers Loverboy who delivered a half-hour worth of 80s hits. The band stumbled out of the starting gate, however, with a lackluster version of “Queen of the Broken Hearts.”
The band was better on “Lovin’ Every Minute of It” and lead singer Mike Reno’s voice got stronger as the early evening progressed, so by the time the band got to “Turn Me Loose” and “Working For the Weekend” they had the crowd on their feet and singing along. Reno was personable with the crowd and made several jokes about how old they and their songs were.
At 66, guitarist Paul Dean could still shred through the solos on “Hot Girls in Love” and “The Kid is Hot Tonight.” Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve, who replaced original bassist Scott Smith, was a nice addition to the band, showing great musicianship and was one of the few band members who actually moved around the stage.
But if there was a band that made the crowd feel their age Friday night, it was Loverboy.