As the Journey, Doobie Brothers, and Dave Mason tour made it’s way through New York state this past month, they made their final destination stop right here in Central New York at the newly constructed Lakeview Amphitheater. This amazing structure, set on Onondaga Lake, features not only the most up to date, state of the art equipment, it offers concert goers a visual treat as well with an amazing picturesque backdrop. Although concert goers did not get to appreciate the spectacular sunset Lakeview offers on this particular night, the fiery stars were not absent as they shifted a little to the right burning up the stage with a heat and intensity. With a packed venue, both under the cover of the pavilion and out in the elements on the lawn, die hard fans were not deterred from attending by a few buckets of rain. After all, adverse weather for central New Yorkers, does not rain make.
As Dave Mason opened the evening, the concert goers of earlier years were up on their feet dancing and appreciative of this amazing songwriter/performers talents. Still rather early for those coming into the venue, it definitively was a treat for being prompt.
As the sets changed in what seemed to be record time, our hats are off to the stage crews as it was literally within minutes that Dave left the stage, that The Doobie Brothers took the stage. Starting off strong with “Jesus Is Just Alright”, this upbeat tempo set the tone for the rest of the set and an energy that proved that you can still rock and roll no matter what age you are. With a diverse mix of talent on the stage, each musician added their personal touch with vocals, personal comments, and of course some of the best instrumentals proving to all that they still have “it”. Entertaining the crowds with an extra long set and two encores, the fans were treated by some of the best music of the night making the Doobie Brothers a hard act to follow.
Again, within perhaps only enough time to fill your cup and make a pit stop, the stage was once again switched off and the scene set for the main event. Journey is one of those bands that is forever timeless. With a catalog of some of the most memorable songs, most covered songs, and most time poignant memories associated with them, it was a treat for this journalist to be present this evening as this was the first concert I ever saw back on October 9, 1981 at the Carrier Dome. Touring at the time for what is now celebrating it’s 35th anniversary, and first number one album, Escape was one of those albums and shows that one would never forget. That evening at the Dome, this teenage girl went through quite a bit to get to the nosebleed seats on the left side of the stage. Listening to the following set list, it seemed almost surreal to be in Syracuse once again watching and listening to almost an identical show.
Setlist from 1981 Show: Escape, Where Were You, Line of Fire, Don’t Stop Believin’, Stone in Love, Keep on Runnin’, Lights, Stay Awhile, Do You Recall, Lay It Down, Lovin’ You Is Easy, Walks Like a Lady, Guitar Solo, Dead or Alive, Drum Solo, Too Late, Who’s Crying Now, The Party’s Over (Hopelessly in Love), Wheel in the Sky, Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’, Any Way You Want It
There were a few changes though this time around for the better. I didn’t have to sneak out of the house and fear my parents grounding me, and this time I could see the stage and the performers. Present at both shows would be Neal Schon – founder & lead guitarist, Ross Valory – co-founder & bassist, Jonathan Cain – longtime member & keyboardist, Steve Smith – drummer; who is rejoining Journey for the first time since 1998, and newcomer Arnel Pineda – lead vocals; who was discovered via YouTube by Neal Schon. It’s difficult to compare the two shows as I really wasn’t close enough to notice, but to me it felt as though Arnel Pineda, who now is actually the longest running lead singer for the band, brought an energy that was lacking before. His spot on vocals, together with the most spectacular group behind him, made for one of the most high energy shows yet this year I’ve seen.
Ridden with solos from each musician, Neal proved why he is considered one of rock and roll’s all time greatest guitar players and Steve proved that his drum skills are off the chart. Drawn to keyboards, Jonathan’s beautiful playing as well as story he shared with his hit “Faithfully” moved me, while Ross laid down a bass line that often is overlooked but not under-appreciated by this crowd or this journalist. Contagious was Arnel’s energy levels as the band and crowd seemed to feed off of him. Humble too was he as he made an effort to shake hands, point and wave to fans, and make this show as interactive as could be. Yes, this was quiet an anniversary celebration for both the band, and this journalist.
All in all, it didn’t matter that storms blew over, as all the performers brought an air of electricity to the Lakeview stage. Faithful were the fans, as they welcomed these legends with Open Arms, and closed this evening out as another to go down in the pages as memorable. Dare we plan another anniversary show for 2051? I’m up for it!