Journey / Def Leppard
Two words: SOLD OUT.
Yes, on a Nashville summer night when the temperature was hovering around ninety degrees after the sun went down, Jurassic rockers Journey and Def Leppard sold out Starwood Amphitheatre. There were a surprisingly large number of younger folks in the audience, when what you’d come to expect at this kind of show would be mostly classic rockers (i.e. old dudes with mullets and chicks with jeans up to their navels).
The show started out with acoustic solo act Stoll Vaughan, who is actually quite talented but is on tour with two bands that he frankly has nothing in common with. Vaughan is a twangy Kentucky based singer/songwriter with some pretty good songs, and someone we should all be keeping on our radar.
Journey then came out, first with guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain performing the National Anthem. These guys seriously look like they have not aged in the last twenty years, and they played like it too. But with lead singer Steve Augeri on the disabled list with a throat ailment, Jeff Scott Soto was the front man for this legendary band. Soto was just an adequate fill-in, and was thankfully overshadowed by a band that was as tight as they have ever sounded, including spot-on harmonies. To his credit, Soto also was humble enough to thank the band for the opportunity, making reference to the fact that they were some of the greatest musicians on the planet.
Journey performed most of their hits, including “Any Way You Want It,” “Lights,” “Wheel in the Sky,” and “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’,” but it was on the ballads that they really excelled. Drummer Deen Castronovo sang lead on “Faithfully,” “Open Arms,” and “Who’s Cryin’ Now,” and sounded every bit as good as Steve Perry. Of course, that begged the question: Why was he not appointed the lead singer, at least until Augeri returns? Also worth noting is that Neal Schon’s solo on “Who’s Cryin’ Now” is one of the most recognizable in rock, and he proved that he can still induce goose bumps with it. Journey closed with “Don’t Stop Believin’,” arguably the band’s biggest hit, and came back with an encore of “Separate Ways.”
After a quick set change, Def Leppard took the stage. These guys have been around for almost 30 years but still know how to bring the rock. Lead singer Joe Elliot fronts a band with almost all original members, including one-armed drummer Rick Allen.
Def Leppard effortlessly plowed through hit after hit including “Let’s Get Rocked,” “Hysteria,” “Photograph” and “Armageddon It.” Admittedly, they did not rock with the same precision as Journey, and a lot of their songs do tend to sound similar after a while. But Elliot’s voice is strong and the band’s signature guitar tones are as nostalgic as they are powerful. The band closed out with “Love Bites” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” as their encores, ending a great night of classic rock.