The extended state holiday weekend got off to a hot rockin’ start at the USANA Amphitheatre on Wednesday night.
Styx, Foreigner and ex-Eagles guitarist Don Felder roared through four hours of some of classic rock’s biggest hits on an extremely hot and windy summer night. A merciful cloud cover right before showtime may have prevented many from melting in their seats.
Styx delivered a polished, crowd-pleasing set of radio hits including, “The Grand Illusion,” “Too Much Time On My Hands,” “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights),” “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” and “Come Sail Away.”
The laid back touring veterans were personable with the crowd, telling stories about how they remember first playing in Provo in 1973. Earlier in the day, Tommy Shaw posted a picture on the band’s Facebook page of him in front of Salt Lake City’s infamous Randy’s Records.
Ten years ago I reviewed Styx at USANA. It was in May and was the first show of the “summer” concert season. Aside from the fact it rained (which briefly turned to snow) and was 50 to 60 degrees colder than Wednesday night, much of the set list was the same.
Fortunately, on Wednesday, in addition to again playing “Crystal Ball” and “Lady,” Styx pulled out some not-often-played deeper tracks in “Light Up” and “Superstars.”
Shaw, keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, bassist Ricky Phillips and James “JY” Young were active in dancing and moving around their bi-level stage while also throwing in a few traditional rock star poses. Shaw took an extended guitar solo out into the crowd by jumping off stage and making a lap around the reserved seating. Behind the drum kit, Todd Sucherman made the impossible look easy with his fills and solos.
The band ended with “Rockin’ the Paradise” and “Renegade.” Overall, another solid performance by the hard touring band. Both musically and vocally they sounded great. After seeing them so many times in concert, it’s easy to forget how good of a show they do just because they’re always so consistent. Even though Wednesday night had a lot of similarities to past Styx shows in Utah, they’re all good.
Foreigner is an interesting situation. Some of the fans I talked to after the concert thought they were the best band of the evening. Lead singer Kelly Hansen, who first gained attention for fronting the 80s hard rock band Hurricane, was highly energetic throughout the set in addition to throwing down some serious vocals. Next to him was the equally energetic bassist Jeff Pilson (Dokken).
The band started off with Foreigner classics “Double Vision” and “Head Games” and continued with a set of greatest hits from there, including “Cold As Ice,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “Dirty White Boy” and an acoustic rendition of “Say You Will.” Like Shaw, Hansen jumped off stage and took a lap around the reserved seating area.
The Cottonwood High School Choir joined the band on stage for their monster ballad “I Want to Know What Love Is.”
By “Urgent,” “Juke Box Hero” and the encore “Hot Blooded,” Foreigner had the entire amphitheater on their feet and were in complete control of the audience.
While musically there was nothing wrong with Foreigner – in fact they sounded quite good and truly put the “rock” in the big rock show – with guitarist and band founder Mick Jones on the mend, the band has no original members on stage. Rhythm guitarist and saxophone player Thom Gimbel is now the veteran of the group, being with them since the mid ’90s. The rest of the band has been with Foreigner ten years or less. Foreigner, with Jones and Lou Gramm, released their first album more than 35 years ago, in 1977.
Former Eagles guitarist Don Felder opened the show, playing mainly a string of Eagles’ classics, including, “Already Gone,” “One of These Nights,” “Heartache Tonight” and “Victim of Love,” which he wrote for the Hotel California album.
“You Don’t Have Me,” from his latest solo album Road to Forever, could have been in reference to his long marriage that ended just about the same time he was fired from the Eagles in 2001. While telling stories about some of the songs from his previous band, Felder frequently referred to them as the Seagulls or Beagles.
In the documentary, History of the Eagles Part I, one of the many arguments within the band was Felder’s desire to sing lead on more songs, such as “Victim of Love,” according to the movie.
While Felder’s guitar playing was top notch on Wednesday, it really is hard to imagine anyone but Don Henley singing some of those songs. Felder comes across as a nice guy with a good attitude. But as much as the Eagles songs he played were crowd pleasers, some of those numbers are so entrenched in people’s minds that vocally they just didn’t quite sound the same.
“Seven Bridges Road” was probably his best Eagles song of the night. His solo song “Heavy Metal,” from the cult classic movie of the same name seen by college students at midnight theater showings across the nation in the ’80s, was his best song of the evening overall.
Felder ended the night with “Life in the Fast Lane” and brought out both his double neck guitar he used for “Hotel California” and Tommy Shaw and Todd Sucherman to help him play the classic song that he wrote the music for.