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Concert Review: Journey and Def Leppard, Starwood Amphitheatre, Nashville, TN (July 16, 2006)

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Twelve years and 90 pounds ago.  That is how long it has been since I last saw Def Leppard.  I am not the only person in Nashville, Tennessee who can mark the passage of time in belt loops.  Nostalgia is a bitch.

Rock critics and hipsters can make all the snide remarks they wish about a Journey/Def Leppard show, but in this era of three dollars per gallon gas and the perpetual tale of woe told by the concert industry, Journey and Def Leppard sold out the 17,000 seat Starwood Amphitheatre. Validation? Maybe not, but it does say something.

The two veteran rock acts played sets of nearly equal length on a warm, humid, breezy night at Starwood (which is, by the way, the best outdoor venue I have ever seen a show at).  Journey played first with Def Leppard following.

Def Leppard is a major segment of the soundtrack of my middle school and high school life and my notes reflect it.  I took two full pages of notes during Journey's set.  I did not need that for Def Leppard — I know these songs.  I needed no notes to remember them.  That and well…I got in that time machine Guster speaks of (you just knew Guster would have to figure in to this review at some point) and remembered the good parts of being young again.  My teenage years were no more traumatic than anyone else's, yet they were not the highlight of my life. The constant joy throughout my life has been music.  Def Leppard was, at one point, a significant part of that.

"Let's Get Rocked" is clearly not filled with profound life statements but I defy you to come up with a better phrase to open a show than, "Do you wanna get rocked?"  Besides, the song is inspired by The Simpsons.  I am not sure why "Make Love Like a Man" is still getting played at all, let alone second in the set but it still gets a big reaction.  The Adrenalized song is a bit of a jokey number (some would say hokey).  I never thought of this as a grand statement, but even in my youth it was a mission statement I could support! Hormones.

"Promises," from Euphoria, would have been a massive hit had it been written and released six years earlier.  It is more or less a re-writing of "Photograph" but it is catchy nonetheless.  It becomes clear after three songs these guys can still replicate those FM harmonies.  As the piercing opening notes of early hit "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" ring out, I shudder as I wonder how many of the younger members of the audience heard this first as a Mariah Carey song.

Guitarist Phil Collen is still playing shows without a shirt — something I could not dare try at present.  Drummer Rick Allen still plays barefoot. Joe Elliott, while certainly not fat, looks softer than he did a few years ago. He does, however, hit the high notes in "Foolin'" better than I do these days.  "Hysteria," the title track to the monster album that introduced me to the band, sounds as anthemic as ever.

The band is touring to promote a new album, Yeah!, an album of covers. Two songs from that album are performed back-to-back:  "No Matter What," the Badfinger classic and David Essex's "Rock On."  "Rock On" opens with a not-really-a-bass-solo from Rick Savage.  I have never liked this song much but Def Leppard's take is better than most — certainly better than that abortion from Michael Damien.  From "Rock On" we move to "Rocket" and the beginning of a mini-suite of the band's strongest material that takes us to the end of the evening.

"Photograph" is the song where the decades seem to have most caught up with Joe & Co.'s ability to hit the high notes.  The band segues directly into "Armageddon It" and then into "Animal" followed by main set closer, "Rock of Ages."

If you are recounting through the list of hits, the encore should be obvious.  "Love Bites" used to bring out the cigarette lighters.  Chalk one up for public health?  There were far fewer swaying cigarette lighters than what I remember from years past.  "Pour Some Sugar on Me" was never my favorite Def Leppard song, even when it dominated MTV and radio.  It still isn't but I am likely in the minority.  The crowd was completely energized by the song and it sent the band offstage with electricity still buzzing through the crowd — always leave them wanting more.

That, I suppose, is an interesting place to segue to Journey's preceding set.   Over the course of the evening they played damn near every song a fan would want to hear.  The sequencing of the set list seemed a little odd.  "Lights," "Open Arms," and "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" came in the middle of the set. That looks to me like the way to close the show (with "L, T, S" perhaps being replaced by a different uptempo, but still) and leave the crowd on their feet.  Journey, instead, opted to close with "Be Good to Yourself" and "Separate Ways."

The show opened unexpectedly with Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain performing "The Star Spangled Banner."  That led into "Any Way You Want It" and the introduction of the replacement for the replacement lead singer.  I was amused to find out some people in the audience did not know that Steve Perry has not been singing with the band for years now. Journey and Perry parted ways in 1997 and his clone, Steve Augeri, joined the band.  Augeri bears some physical resemblance to Perry and a frightening vocal similarity.  Augeri and the band have been touring ever since.  On the current tour, his voice gave out and rather than canceling the gigs they replaced Augeri with Jeff Scott Soto.


Jeff Scott Soto, a former singer for Yngwie Malmsteen.

Don't worry.  It's not as bad as you think.  Soto has decent chops and the band has a secret weapon:  ex-Bad English drummer Deen Castronovo.  Soto handled the uptempo numbers and did a respectable job.  You have to hand it to the guy — he has had no success as a solo artist and he is playing with (can you believe this) the 29th best-selling act of all time and he held his own.  Some singers might have been intimidated by the prospect.  Soto came out and put a lot of energy into his performance and seriously, he's not bad.  Like Augeri, he can sound quite Perry-esque at times.

The real revelation of Journey's set is that the most Perry-esque voice in the band belongs to drummer Castronovo.  Drummers are not supposed to sing and they are surely not supposed to be able to sing well.  It's in the rulebook somewhere!  Only a handful of them are audacious enough to test this rule and you may count Castronovo among them.  You might hear about Journey hiring a new drummer and moving Deen to the front if Augeri's voice does not mend soon.

Other than the rotation of lead vocalists, the rest of the show is pretty much what you would expect, Cain alternating between keyboards and rhythm guitar and Neal Schon's searing guitar work.  Schon, a terrific guitarist who was sometimes held back by the poppier leanings of the band, flashed his skills and re-created some of the most (over)played guitar moments in FM rock radio history.  The solo at the end of "Who's Crying Now?" (with Castronovo handling lead vocal) sounded perfect in tone and note.

Everyone knows "Lights" which means the entire audience sang along.  Half of them thought they were singing harmony.  They weren't, but that didn't stop them from trying or enjoying the experience.  "Open Arms" was greeted even more enthusiastically.  Unfortunately, the power ballad was an invitation for the old folks to make out.  Old people sex.  Eeeew.  I'm still too young to not be scarred by that!

Journey was better than I expected but I have a feeling a healthy Steve Augeri would have made an even bigger difference.  Def Leppard and I have aged a bit since we last saw each other but enough of those years melted during their performance to make the reunion a happy one.  Journey might have been slightly better at re-creating the album sound of their songs than Def Leppard but it was Def Leppard that seemed more able to energize the crowd.

The Wife To Whom I Am Married loved Def Leppard (her first time seeing them) but found Journey to be "cheesy."  Some of the music is a little on the dramatic side for my taste but this is one of those times when the age difference (six years) between the two of us becomes apparent.  I was young when Journey was at their commercial peak but I remember these songs.  She was anywhere between zygote and toddler stage when some of these songs were first performed.  She knew more of them than she thought she would but they do not hold a particular meaning for her.

Some songs stick around long enough in the collective noggin that it no longer matters if they are any good or not.  Popular and good are not mutually exclusive.  Even when they do compete it is hard to say that neither has virtue.  Whether or not the songs are any good matters less when they are tied to vivid memories of better days, different days, and younger days.  Consider this:  how many people in that audience became first-time parents because of "Open Arms?"  You do the math.  For better or worse, this music is more than the soundtrack to a generation.  It might have spawned a generation.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • Mat Brewster

    It might have spawned a generation.

    Eww. That’s an image I didn’t need right before bed.

    One of my secret pleasures is Journey’s “Faithfully”

    I once tried to transcribe the lyrics to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” I thought it was about a picnic filled with sweet potatoes and southern style tea. What can I say I was but a lad and didn’t understand the sacred tradition of innuendo in rock lyrics.

  • Mark Saleski

    Augeri: more than frightening vocal similarities to Perry. in fact, downright creepy, if ya ask me.

    nice review. i never got a chance to see either of these bands way back when…tho i did see Journey on the Infinity tour. when they were still a pretty heavy rock band, in concert anyway.

  • Mary K. Williams

    i never got a chance to see either of these bands way back when…
    Cuz you were too busy seeing every other freakin’ band that existed! Grr..smarypants.

  • Mark Saleski

    at least i wasn’t yakkin’ during the quiet parts.


  • The Wife To Whom He Used To Be Married

    Music is the constant joy in your life? Then I guess that leaves me with being the constant pain!
    My work here is done! I will now diminish and pass into the Grey Havens.


  • Chris Czynszak

    Great review man! It was nice meeting you and your wife at the show. I hope my review turns out as good as yours. Yeah, I know. I’m a slacker.

  • Mary K. Williams

    TWTWHUTBM! NO, you’re not done! There’s sooo much more you can do here. Let’s talk about curling, commas outside of quotes, and the NY Yankees!

    Wait, I hear something…could it be the sound of Josh’s blood boiling? Hurrah!

  • DJRadiohead

    Mary, believe me when I say she does not need any ideas from you or anyone else.

    Chris, it was a pleasure meeting you and yours. I will fire you off an e-mail offline so you can let me know when yours is up.

  • Tom Johnson

    Jeez, great review, DJRadiohead. It almost makes me wish I was going to the show here in Phoenix. Almost (it may even shock some of my long-time readers that I have a surprisingly soft spot for Journey). I’ve seen Def Leppard a few times (Hysteria and Adrenalize tours) and I’m a bit frightened at the prospect of what the crowd would be like for a mixed Journey/Def Lep concert in Phoenix, to be honest. I’m envisioning a lot of tight leather on bodies that shouldn’t be wearing tight leather.

  • Mark Saleski

    ewww! old people pseudo-bondage gear!

  • Guppusmaximus

    “Jeff Scott Soto, a former singer for Yngwie Malmsteen.Don’t worry. It’s not as bad as you think.”
    Not as bad as who thinks?? I’m so sick of people dissing Yngwie Malmsteen when half the guitarists that people mention here on B.C. would probably be the first to say that they like his style!!

    “he has had no success as a solo artist..”

    Granted Mr. Soto isn’t a multi-platinum recording artist he has quite the following from his solo works. Obviously, he must be rather good considering he has worked with Neal Schon before and they asked him to fill a pretty big pair of shoes(Augeri). And, when he was singing with Yngwie, he had far better range than Steve Perry ever had.

    Other than that, it was a nice review and I would’ve thought that Journey would headline as they are a stronger sounding band nowadays.

  • Mary K. Williams

    Mary, believe me when I say she does not need any ideas from you or anyone else.
    Josh, perhaps not. I really couldn’t stop myself. My cherubs are plotting my slow tortuous demise. I’m afraid it’s bit warped version of Boss yells at Man. Man comes home and kicks the Dog.

    Sorry Josh, you were the dog.

  • DJRadiohead

    Guppus, I hadn’t stopped to consider you would have thoughts for me on this. I’m certainly not going to argue but allow me a point of clarification and a couple more opinions and then I’ll bow out quietly.

    My reference to Yngwie in this case was a less a slap at Malmsteen as a guitarist and more a reference to the fact that no one has really gotten famous singing for Yngwie. Malmsteen is the show. My OPINION after having listened to a few of his albums is that the singer is there to take up space between Malmsteen solos. Maybe you and others put more stock in the vocal and lyrical content of Malmsteen records than I do. Having said that, my point might not have been entirely clear.

    As to Malmsteen the guitarist… he is a bit of a polarizing figure in the guitar world. He has legions of devoted fans and a lot of people who take the piss out of him. I will say this: I have never heard a faster player out there. He’s not my favorite and speed is not the only game in town. Some people like his chops- I don’t. And yes, I have listened to more than one of his albums but no I have not listened to every note he has played.

    Yes, he worked with Neal before on an album that really seemed to go nowhere commercially (I didn’t know it existed until I went and researched Soto for this review). Maybe the album was magical but I get the feeling not. That is a biased, preconceived notion- you’re right. He has a decent voice but he’s not a vocal lion and he has not demonstrated an ability or proven track record as a song writer. He has worked on the periphery and is a replacement for the replacement.

    As for the big shoes he is filling, this statement comes from Journey’s own web site:
    Steve had all but given up hope of singing professionally and was working at The Gap when Neal Schon called him.

    Talk about some big shoes and a major player in the industry. I wonder where Soto was working. Bath and Body Works? Sorry- that line just seemed funny to me. I am saying it in both a mocking and joking manner. Journey has not had a successful album since Perry left. Soto might in your opinion have more range but the band was clearly more successful with Perry than before or after.

    I meant to mention how much better Def Leppard sounded in Nashville than they did on VH-1 Rock Honors. They still sound pretty strong live and energized this crowd more than Journey did. I disagree that Journey is the stronger sounding band but that is just an opinion- an opinion based on having seen this tour.

    Anyway, Guppus, I hope I am not fanning flames and I know this response went longer than my damn review did.

  • DJRadiohead

    Tom, you should have gone. There was some definite naynay present but not everyone has aged as poorly as I have. And I was surprised at the number of younger people at the show. It was kind of cool and they still sound really good.

  • Tom Johnson

    Almost totally off topic, but if anyone wants to read some real nasty dirt on the guys in Journey, read this interview with their former manager. As he says of Steve Perry, “I wouldn’t piss down his throat if his heart were on fire.” (Gotta scroll down a bit to get past the stuff about the auction to get to the good stuff. This guy pretty much hates these guys.)

  • DJRadiohead

    Those are some of the most bitter words I have ever read. DAMN!

  • Guppusmaximus

    DJR, Ofcourse I’m gonna have an opinion because I have a soft spot for both bands but more so for Def Leppard’s real stuff(Pyromania,Hysteria).
    I personally feel that Journey’s latest direction has more “umph” but I have yet to see them live. Neither band is “up my alley” anymore so I probably wouldn’t go to either concert anyways.

    As for the fame concept, especially nowadays in the US I find it to be a poor benchmark for talent. Ofcourse, Malmsteen’s work is all about Malmsteen considering he wrote all the bass & guitar lines as well as the drum parts on his first two masterpieces,so, that’s a no-brainer but to say that no one has ‘gotten’ famous from singing for him is ridiculous. Mr. Soto sang on two of the most important albums in Metal History, granted he will never be super rich for that…But, Who gives a sh!t?? To work with a master of the guitar on the albums that influenced a whole legion of shredders is famous enough.

    If you don’t understand the appeal or feel that Yngwie’s skill is noteworthy than that’s your opinion BUT… Unfortunately for the fans of the Arena Rock era, Heavy Metal vocalists are the only ones left who have the range to sing such classics and the Real Metal scene is in Europe, not here.

    “Steve had all but given up hope of singing professionally and was working at The Gap when Neal Schon called him.”

    I don’t find this sad because Steve Augeri was working for a living. I find this sad because in a country that’s supposed to be a land of opportunity, the only way you can make any real money in Music is to become a whore by either playing in a cover band or getting sucked into the formula trap.Personally, I think Journey is a cover band just like Def Leppard. And, your shallow thought patterns on this subject prove my point that looks and status are more important than talent. I can only say that atleast these guys had the brains to survive. I can only picture how Jessica Simpson would fall apart if she had to pump some gas for a living!!

    Anyways, I could ramble on all night but I just wanna say that I like your review becaue you have a passion and an opinion, I just may not totally agree with it.

  • DJRadiohead

    G-man, differing opinions are cool. I’m very glad you read my review and took the time to offer some thoughts of your own.

  • Mark Saleski

    shallow thought patterns?

    like constantly referring to Malmsteens records as “masterpieces”?


  • The Wife To Whom He Is Married

    Mary K. – Don’t worry…I’m not going anywhere. I’m a sadistic little shit and Josh is just sooo much fun to tweek. If you really want to get him….mention mold and the sound of styrofoam rubbing together :) Ha Ha Ha Ha

  • Mark Saleski

    (…shhhhh…..i have it on good authority that TheWifeToWhomHeIsMarried will soon be getting a ‘new’ computer…..things might be gettin’ more lively & interesting)

    one can hope anyway.

  • Glen Boyd

    If I sent a block of old cheese thats been in my frig for at least a year, packaged in two blocks of styofoam, d’ya suppose I could get him to let me know what he thought of my Cash review?

    So what’ll it be? UPS or Postal?


  • The Wife To Whom He Is Married

    Glen – he is burning with shame now….UPS is fine :)

  • Glen Boyd

    A little brown cheddar from the men in brown coming right up…


  • DJRadiohead

    Glen, in my defense I did get your review added to the MASTER post I did last week (the story announcing that Cash’s album debuted at #1) so you are included with me, MPP, Bicho, and Steven. What I haven’t done is had a chance to read it fully and comment and I am going to do that.


  • El Bicho

    “commas outside of quotes”

    Where do I sign that petition? Especially when it comes to titles and lyrics.

  • Glen Boyd

    Thanx for adding me to that DJR.

    I’m also interested in your thoughts because I so completely agreed with what you said in your review (I even linked it in mine) in what I wrote in my own. You pretty much nailed it. I just basically added a few of my own thoughts and some personal backstory.

    I’ll look forward to what you’ve got to say. Holding off on the brown moldy cheese and styrofoam for now. LOL…



  • Penny

    Thank for the great review DJR.
    I do live vicariously, especially after finally seeing Def Leppard for the first time live last year. Journey is also a favourite band of mine and it’s killing me that I live too far away to catch any of their concerts. My only consolation and at the same time diappointment is that Def Leppard is playing this year ALMOST exactly the same songs they played last year when I saw them. I would have felt must worse if, for example, I’d missed them doing “Waterloo Sunset”.

  • Scott Butki

    I missed the first reference to this

    El Bicho
    July 20, 2006
    04:18 PM”commas outside of quotes”

    Where do I sign that petition? Especially when it comes to titles and lyrics.

    but wanted to mention that I just recently learned that this is a cultural thing, i.e. teachers in England teach that commas outside of quotes is ok while teachers like me in America are teaching the opposite.

    I say we just, like, add, you know, more commas everywhere.

    Good review, DJR.

  • Crutnacker

    I saw the show in Cinci. My thought… Journey — Better Songs, uninspired playing, and the only people who appeared to really being enjoyed it were Deen and Jeff Scott Soto. Neal Schon’s solos were about as wanky as I’ve ever heard.

    Def Leppard — Rocked the house with mediocre songs. Ever since Hysteria hit, I’ve been convinced that they recorded the same six minute hit several times. They were more entertaining, as was their video presentation.

    Still, the night was a disappointment. No surprises, just the hits played as though the CD were on, complete with the same “spontaneous” moments heard on other live CDs.

  • DJRadiohead

    Crut, thanks for checking out the review. I have to disagree with you about Journey having better songs, though.

  • Andy

    Thanks for posting this great review — I saw the Indy show 7/22 which apparently was similar to the Nashville show, esp. Def Leppard’s song list. Two impressions to share:

    1) Joe Elliott has lost more than a few miles off of his fastball. On “Let’s Get Rocked” to open the show, his vocals were noticeably weak. They improved as the show went on, but he still couldn’t hit the high notes like he used to.
    2) Journey’s set was well-received, and left the Indy crowed as energized, or even more energized, than the Def Leppard set that followed. Without Steve Perry, the set did expose the musicianship & rock background of the band. Neal Schon was great on guitars, and I shared your sentiments that the Drummer was excellent at meeting the vocal range of Steve Perry on the songs he sung.

  • http://www.djradiohead DJRadiohead

    “Let’s Get Rocked” was the weak point at our show for Joe, as well.

    I think the crowd responded more to Journey’s songs than to the actual band or performance of them at our show.

    Def Leppard- the energy was certainly better.

  • KMcalbear

    i saw augeri twice on the 05 tour…he’s awesome. when i closed my eyes i couldn’t tell the difference between he and Perry. His presence was well-recieved as well.

    i saw the 06 show in san diego yesterday, and hadn’t heard the news about augeri’s voice and Soto being the replacement. I saw it wasn’t Augeri on stage and spent the first 10 min wondering what happened. Augeri was an amazing replacement for Perry; Soto isn’t even a good replacement for Augeri…that said, I have to admit that my impression of Soto improved greatly after hearing how he came to be the lead vocals on the tour. Nice job given the circumstances. Great review DJradiohead

  • Fake

    Journey = fraud… fake lead singers need to stop…

  • Tab

    ..Just saw Def Leppard 2 nights ago..
    Chance of a lifetime. Free tickets. Awesome.