Pour some sugar on me!EXPAND
Pour some sugar on me!
Mike Brooks

Journey and Def Leppard Remind Everyone That They’re Never Too Old to Rock

On Wednesday night, rock icons Def Leppard and Journey proved that even after 40 years, one can still tastefully rock out. Aging rock stars have to walk a fine line, because rock ’n’ roll was invented by the youth for the youth. Its essence is loud, its message rebellious, its lifestyle full-throttle, the proverbial middle finger at the establishment that is grown-up life. Embracing that mantra at age 23 is easy, but when you're 60 and have children (and grandchildren), something has to change. Those who can’t adapt either end up dead or seen as washed-up retreads living in the past. Def Leppard and Journey have managed to avoid both of those fates, their music timeless and their prowess as entertainers still on point.

Their greatness was on full display to a nearly sold-out crowd at the American Airlines Center. At precisely 7:25 p.m. the countdown timers hit 0:00, with Def Leppard introducing rock ’n’ roll visual fanfare thanks to a trio of video boards that lifted to reveal the band. Leppard immediately launched full-throttle into “Rocket” to an already amped-up crowd. Hit after hit ensued, with the closest thing to a break for the audience coming when the band went all-acoustic for “Two Steps Behind” and followed shortly after with the David Essex cover, “Rock On.”

Overall, the band played the rock-icon card with veteran class. Lead guitarist Phil Collen still goes shirtless, and who wouldn’t if you’ve got six-pack abs at 60 and can shred like the devil. Bass player Rick Savage held down the low-end as always, long flowing blond hair, leather and lots of chest hair working for him. Guitarist Vivian Campbell, who replaced the late Steve Clark in 1992, oozed cool and served those classic Def Leppard riffs. Finally, the band’s biggest miracle, one-armed drummer Rick Allen, still doesn’t miss a beat. Lead singer Joe Elliott’s voice has gotten raspier and thinner with age, especially when hitting his upper register, but he still delivers Def Leppard’s string of hits with the same showmanship he displayed in 1985. The Rock Gods of Sheffield wrapped up with “Hysteria” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” two monsters that even got the 72-year-old woman sitting next to us up and dancing (we later found out she was the aunt of Journey drummer Steve Smith).

By the time encores “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” were done, the middle-aged crowd needed a breather. During the set change, concertgoers refueled and packed the merch tables, hoping to snag a Def Leppard/Journey 2018 tour shirt, which sold out quickly.

Thumbs up to Journey.EXPAND
Thumbs up to Journey.
Mike Brooks

Many fans were still resetting out in the concourse when the instantly recognizable keyboard intro to “Separate Ways” spilled out from the arena, signaling the start of Journey’s set. Folks beelined it back to their seats to join Round 2, re-energized by lead singer and Steve Perry replacement Arnel Pineda, who bounced, bounded and spin-kicked up and down the center runway of the stage the rest of the night. Pineda carried the torch left by Perry fairly well, and it’s clear he understands his role is not to reinvent the vocal spoke of the band.

Guitarist and original Journey member Neal Schon still dons the rock star persona: black curly hair, black boots, dark shades and plenty of guitar face to accompany his numerous solos throughout the night. Keyboard player Jonathan Cain, drummer Steve Smith and bass player Ross Valery were confident and competent but definitely more subdued in their approach compared with Schon and Pineda. The middle portion of the set turned toward the group’s catalog of mellow hits starting with “Lights,” a song Schon co-write with Steve Perry. With Schon’s encouragement, everyone lit up the AAC with their cellphones while images of San Francisco flooded the giant video screen. A little cliche but still a cool spectacle. The crowd’s energy seemed to wane at this point, with more sitting compared with Def Leppard. It could have been fatigue or it could have been folks choosing to soak in classic ballads like “Who’s Crying Now” and “Open Arms” in comfort.

To close things out, Pineda got everyone up with “Anyway You Want It” and “Wheel In The Sky” before going straight into their first encore, “Faithfully.” Saving their greatest hit for last, Journey ended the night with "Don't Stop Believin’” and proceeded to storm the frenzied crowd with confetti.

As people poured into the streets, it was apparent they got what they wished for. When music fans attend a rock concert, they want grit, glam, loud guitars, big amps, lights, lasers, video effects and most important, monster hits. Def Leppard and Journey delivered and did so competently.

Def Leppard Set List:
"Rocket"
"Animal"
"Foolin’"
"When Love And Hate Collide"
"Let’s Get Rocked"
"Armageddon It"
"Rock On (David Essex cover)"
"Two Steps Behind"
"Are You Man Enough"
"Love Bites"
"Bringin’ On The Heartbreak"
"Switch 625"
"Hysteria"
"Pour Some Sugar On Me"

Encore:
"Rock Of Ages"
"Photograph"

Journey Set List:
"Separate Ways"
"Only The Young"
"Escape"
"Stone In Love"
"Be Good To Yourself"
(Neal Schon guitar segue)
"Lights"
"Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’"
(Jonathan Cain keyboard segue)
"Who’s Crying Now"
"Open Arms"
"La Do Da"
(Steve Smith drum solo)
"Anyway You Want It"
(Neal Schon guitar intro)
"Wheel In The Sky"

Encore:
"Faithfully"
"Don’t Stop Believin’"

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