Journey and the Doobie Brothers rocked the hits at the Sprint Center last night
Classic Rock Summer is a series wherein we attempt to see as many classic-rock concerts coming through the Kansas City area as possible. From May through September, we will immerse ourselves in the music of our parents, from yacht rock to oldies to hair metal, you’ll find us there.
Journey and the Doobie Brothers
Saturday, May 28
Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend: where else would you be but seeing Journey and belting your heart out? For realsies, kids — if you were wondering why mom and dad weren’t answering their phone, they were probably in khaki shorts and drinking Miller Lite with several thousand of their peer group.
Fun time, though, you guys. Journey really cheated the Devil when they replaced departed singer Steve Perry with Steve Augeri in 1998, then doubled down on range and energy when Arnel Pineda took over in 2007. There’s so much energy the diminutive and tattooed man brings to Journey’s show: dancing, kicks, jumps — it’s all visually impressive. Consider it the visual equivalent of what Neil Schoen does on guitar.
It’s all pretty amazing to take in, but then they do a ballad like “Lights,” which is all about tone and projection, and you realize the spectacle is the music, not just the dude jumping. The ideal is when it all comes together, as it did on a ripping version of “Escape.”
There are times when you can judge how confident a band is in their abilities by what sort of visual gimmickry and geegaws they have on stage. As a band ages, the tendency to give a bit of something to look at, in case the music isn’t up to snuff. Journey’s stage setup is pretty bare bones basic, with no crazy backdrop. Hell, their backdrop is a video screen which shows the band. That’s how confident they are.
The only lack of confidence was the repeated exhortations to the crowd to sing along if they knew the words. Honestly, they never needed to ask, “Do you want to sing along, Kansas City?” That’s 50 percent of why everyone was there, with the other half was made up of equal parts wanting to dance, drink, and get out of the house. Their tolerance of solos — guitar, drum and piano — was immense, and they embraced Journey’s show with open arms (pun intended) and enthusiasm.
A sort of kudos are due Journey, for the classy way they sent out “Faithfully” to soldiers serving overseas, as well as the inclusion of “Taps” and the “Star-Spangled Banner” in Neil Schoen’s guitar solo. A very respectful way of doing things, and pretty cool all around.
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
Be Good to Yourself
Only the Young
Stone in Love
Any Way You Want It
Line of Fire
Who’s Crying Now
La Do Da
Dead or Alive
Wheel in the Sky
Don’t Stop Believin’
Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’
The Doobie Brothers’ boogie rock was the first concert I ever attended, at the tender age of 11. Now, 25 years later, I know far more songs than were on the greatest hits cassette my aunt gave me, and the band played all of them. The Doobies are the most versatile of classic-rock bands, and the way their music is rooted in a kind of blue-eyed soul really gives it a mood you can dance to, and even the more rockin’ tunes such as “China Grove” and “Jesus Is Just Alright” have an undercurrent of hip-swaying goodness to them.
Now, granted — we do have the Michael McDonald era with which to contend. His music is still represented in the band’s set, though mostly kept to “Takin’ It to the Streets,” which received rapturous dancing and applause, easily eclipsing the surprisingly robust “The Doctor” which followed. On songs such as that one, the Doobie Brothers sounded good, and not just in a “for their age” thing. Even on the slower, more vocally demanding songs — such as those harmonies on “Black Water” — their voices were mostly tight and sweet, even if they petered out at the end.
The cavalcade of 40-something ladies in bedazzled denim didn’t give a good goddamn, though, and everyone was at the Sprint Center to have fun and sing along, so what did it matter that Tom Johnston’s vocals were starting to shred somewhere around “Long Train Running”?
For all the power early on, it was pretty rough going the last few songs, if you weren’t blasted on domestic beer. The band was tight, but the vocals started to suffer noticeably, but there was a nice recovery by the time they got to set closer “Listen to the Music,” allowing the Doobies to finish strong and earn that bow they took at the end of their set.
Jesus Is Just Alright
Rockin’ Down the Highway
Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)
Dark Eyed Cajun Woman
Eyes of Silver
Takin’ It to the Streets
Long Train Runnin’
Listen to the Music
Dave Mason’s opening set provided an energetic, if not fiery, start to the night with a set of energetic blues rock. Obviously, the highlight of the set were songs from Mason’s former band, Traffic. The Doobies’ John McFee joined the band on acoustic guitar for Traffic’s ” Dear Mr. Fantasy” and ” Feelin’ Alright,” but the biggest responses came early in the set, when the phones came out for “We Just Disagree,” and at the end, for a ferocious take on Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” by way of Jimi Hendrix.