I don't exist today. I'm at 31,000 feet traveling backwards, as I arrive in Los Angeles on the same day (October 12), 3 hours before I left my last boarding point. So I'm not really typing this – I am in transit into an alternative reality.
At least that's what it feels like. Yesterday I spent the day with my wife and 2 kids and now, not 24 hours later I'm sitting in the ass end of a 747 bound for my favourite city on the planet – Los Angeles.
When the plane lands it will be 3 days of craziness at the hands of some seasoned rock veterans on a tour that is making waves every stop they make.
This week the population of LA has been added to by Journey and Def Leppard and their respective road teams.
This rock show features a combination that has taken the tour circuit by surprise. In a year where only a handful of artists have come close to selling out while the rest languish in half sold arenas and smaller venues, Journey and Def Leppard have been ripping it up across America to packed venues and both critical and popular acclaim.
The combination of the two bands doesn't immediately strike you as obvious, but it has worked so well for both.
Now in the third and final leg of the tour, it seems both bands have brought their loyal fanbases out for the summer and from reading the various message boards, it seems both bands have left an impression.
I'm here to talk Journey and in regards to them, the thing that has impressed me most is the number of Def Leppard fans that have felt impressed enough to go to the Journey website and post a positive concert review.
The concept behind this tour – from guitarist Neal Schon's own mouth – was to try and reach a new section of fans that were there for Def Leppard and show them what Journey is made of.
It seems this worked and a number of them are vocal in their praise for this new line-up and also surprised at just how much Journey rocked.
The press is the same. I have read more reviews for this tour than the last 3 combined. It seems people and the press in particular is genuinely interested in this band and this line up and are not hesitant in coming out and saying so.
Yes, Journey rock and it's great to hear so many old and new fans united in their praise for this line-up. What I personally continue to hear is word of a revitalized band on stage. A band that seems to have a renewed energy and a band that have been truly smoking on stage each and every night.
Now fronted by Jeff Scott Soto – Journey have been ripping through their 'dirty dozen' and a few other classic rockers to a crowd mostly not sure of what to expect. There are those that are already baptized JSS fans, but even those fans are not familiar with the man himself in a live setting – where he does his best magic.
Soto has maintained a steady touring schedule throughout Europe, so its great to see the mass audience finally getting to learn exactly what this energetic and engaging frontman brings to the show.
Now, I am finally able to see this show first hand and I can't imagine anywhere better than to do so in LA and at the prestigious Hollywood Bowl.
I am sure and both bands will really turn it on for this high profile date, not to mention the fact everyone is rested after a 2 week break.
I just have to get there first! Right now I'm 2 hours into a 13 hour flight from Sydney, which followed a one hour flight from Hobart to Melbourne and then another hour to Sydney. Right now I'm approaching boredom…
LA and Day 1 awaits!
Day 1 - Thursday
Day 1 started with a typically horrid airline breakfast….dried up scrambled eggs (pass), a bit of bacon, some potato (I think!) and onion…the bacon was ok I guess!
The 14 hour Sydney-LA portion of the flight arrived 2 minutes within scheduled time, which was still 13 hours and 58 minutes too long.
Once out the doors of LAX Terminal 6, I took that one long deep breath I always do when arriving in La La Land. Yep, nowhere on earth smells, tastes or feels like LA.
Mr. Soto picks me up from the airport in his SUV – naturally customized to feature alongside the CD player, a DVD player, live TV and even a VCR in the back. Yes, you never know when you'll need to dig out those old Kuni VHS bootlegs to watch.
We catch up on what's going on during the drive back to his place in Northridge.
Most of the day is spent kicking back and chatting – over a light lunch and then around at the house in Jeff's home studio.
Before leaving Oz, I had an invite to meet one of LA's residents, the larger (and louder) than life Rockin'Deano and the far more lovely Lula.
After freshening up, it's over to The Saddle Ranch on Sunset. I'm meeting Deano because I want to get to know the man behind the mouth and also try and convince him to employ a little restraint when it comes to certain subjects on the Journey message board. I also explain that my site and my board is read by all, so any fighting on the board can cast a shadow over the entire site - something I certainly do not want.
It is my hope there will be unity among fans and the divide caused during the year will be reversed. In speaking to him, it is clear that he has an extreme passion for this band. We had a good chat, an even better steak and a few Corona's too.
Day 2 - Friday
It's the morning of the Hollywood Bowl show. The more I listen to Jeff talk about it; the more the importance of this gig really comes to light.
The Hollywood Bowl is the Madison Square Gardens of the West Coast and being that this is Hollywood – this is going to be huge.
A lot of Jeff's family are going to be at the show along with high school buddies and from what I hear, the guest lists for all members of the band is full to overflowing, meaning lots of guests and friends backstage.
Jeff is upstairs getting ready for the day. We are heading out for lunch soon and I can hear him warming up those vocal chords already.
Seriously…I've seen Jeff perform 10 times before today. Always amazing and always the absolute professional. But this gig is all that times 10.
It means so much to him and he is taking it so seriously – not drinking while on the road, taking it easy with his voice, hitting the gym every day. And he is his own worst critic - everything has to be 100%.
We spent a little time this morning sitting in his home studio listening back to a recording Jeff had made of the Fresno show Wednesday night. Amazing…The vocals were just amazing and the band seemed so tight, yet energetic.
If this is what I will get a taste of tonight – then it cannot come quick enough.
There were some parts of the performance I was listening to that sounded so freakishly Perry and other places where Jeff was beginning to make the songs his own.
After a casual morning it was time to run a few errands before heading over to The Bowl to prepare for tonight's show and do Soundcheck.
Jeff and I had lunch at one of the area's many Mexican eateries…very fine indeed. Over lunch the conversation again revolved around the current tour.
I know Jeff loves to use the stage, but having seen him on a few decent size ones and a few that didn't even provide room for a drum riser, I asked what it was like to tour a whole summer on full size stages.
I got an enthusiastic reply! To those that have seen this show – you know the answer already – basically, the bigger the stage the better and Jeff loves using every inch of it.
We also talked about the set list. While it contains the usual hits required of such a show, there are a couple of popular album tracks such as Dead Or Alive, Edge Of The Blade, Chain Reaction and Escape in there – beefing up the already uptempo set list into a true rocking show.
There is talk of perhaps changing Who's Crying Now for something else.
Currently there are no songs from Generations and nothing from Trial By Fire. Fans will get to hear these songs – but this tour features a shortened stage time, which obviously limits the amount of songs to be played.
[Message Of Love has since replaced Keep On Running. The guys were playing it during Soundcheck and will remain in the setlist when the guys play their own upcoming solo shows].
JSS' phone has been running hot all day, with messages from family and friends all looking to ensure their tickets are ready and that continues through lunch.
So, not too long after we are heading to The Bowl for Soundcheck and will stay there until show time.
The typically over dramatic LA news broadcasts were on “storm watch”, as were the cast and crew of Journey at the famous Hollywood Bowl.
The rest of the band arrive on their tour bus and welcome me to LA.
I saw Neal in the UK earlier last year with Soul SirkUS, but I haven't seen Ross, Deen or Jon since LA 2003. Nice to catch up and have a lot more time to chat freely.
Everything looked ok during an enthusiastic soundcheck, which included warm-ups of the new song for tonight's set – I'll Be Alright Without You (replacing Who's Crying Now after a backstage discussion between all the guys), plus the rocked up Ask The Lonely and Chain Reaction.
I love the extended finish to Ask The Lonely. To hear Jon Cain belting away at the piano in the closing moments while the rest of the guys just dig the moment is something else.
I mentioned that the guys were talking backstage about how Who's Crying Now was maybe slowing down the set and after consulting Deen, it was agreed that I'll Be Alright Without You would be added.
This is a prime example of how this band is such a tight, united team. No one wanted to drop Who's Crying Now without first getting Deen's ok.
When Jeff first flew in, that first night saw him sing all the tracks, including Deen's trademark take on the ballads. He had a point to prove and proved it.
The next show Deen returned to his usual role of blowing fans away, especially with his passionate vocals on Faithfully and Open Arms.
There was never talk of Deen not singing and he doesn't need to sing to cover Jeff's ass. Deen is a very popular member of this band and truly a wonderful, sweet guy and he adores singing those songs. He will continue to sing them for a long time to come and the biggest supporter of this is Jeff himself.
Jeff Scott Soto is just as big a fan of Deen as the rest of us and says it is an honor to hear and watch Deen do his thing and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Speaking of Deen, while watching the crew set up the stage I got talking to Deen's drum tech Jim Handley - himself a bit of a celebrity thanks to two separate stints filling in for Deen this tour. One was the night of Steve Augeri's last show, when Deen stepped out front to sing and the other was when Deen missed half the show due to illness.
Deen took ill and Jim had to step in one night after the band played Jim's hometown, when a number of his old mates were present. I had to laugh, 'Why couldn't Deen get sick that night?' he states - tongue in cheek of course.
Took an up-close look at Deen's monster kit - split in two for the purposes of mobility and deep within the grain of the kit's woodwork is a very special watermark - the classic Journey emblem embedded into each and every piece of the kit. Amazing handiwork and something cool to check out if you are ever that close. Pictured below in case you are not!
Deen's drum kit - split in two for ease of mobility & up close you can see the Journey emblem built into each piece of the kit.
back in the dressing rooms, Jonathan Cain hands me a copy of his new solo album Where I Live while we are hanging out. Talk turns to the tracks within, one of which is a tribute to owning a pet dog - Man's Best Friend. 'It would have to come down to me writing a song like that!' laugh's Jon. The all-vocal album is a very comfortable and natural album for fans of Jon Cain's solo material.
The album features a new version of Pride Of The Family, a duet version of Faithfully, which Jon says he has had on hand for some time now and also a track called Sometimes She Breaks, which was a ballad originally demoed (but not used) for the Arrival album.
Jon and I also talked about the band's stage set up – which is very basic compared to the headliner. Journey get less stage space, a limited light show and each night have to adapt to using Def Leppard's own PA rather than their own that they would normally travel with. They are not permitted to make changes to the pre-existing setup, which Jonathan says provides challenges, but soundman Kevin Elson is one of the best live guys in the business and in Kevin's own words, each venue is 'just another room' he has to prep.
But said Jon, 'we do have 42 live mikes on stage!' Yes, that number is correct…42!
(left) Def Leppard's stage set up and (right) Journey's after their gear has been moved in and set up.
The setting up of both stages pre-show allows for a quick change over between sets, but reduces the space available to the band opening...ie. Journey.
I spent a little time with Kevin while he tweaked the dials behind the huge mixing desk and he has promised me a full career spanning interview once this tour winds up for the year and he gets to go home after a long summer on the road.
Kevin Elson prepares the mixing desk, under a water-proof wrap and grey skies.
Backstage, Deen is busy showing off his upgraded tattoo's, freshly 'painted' earlier that day. His arm is hurting, but when questioned about playing tonight, he says, 'it doesn't hurt to just pound those drums'.
Final preparations are being made and everyone is generally just taking it easy now. I was standing backstage with JSS when Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen approached him to say hello. I was at the time turned towards the back of the stage area, and stood back from the guys as they had their chat. But I did hear Rick ask Jeff if the band had been rehearsing during their recent 2 week break. 'No' replied Jeff, asking why? Rick it seems saw the set in Fresno 2 nights earlier and commented that the band was amazing. How cool was that? Nice of Rick to comment...
I caught up briefly with buddy Dan Clavadetscher in the car park. Dan has contributed a few live reviews from LA area shows in the last year or so, but I have never met him face to face, so it was good to finally meet him, along with a few resident BackTalk forum regulars, who had gathered to hang out pre-show.
Dinner came courtesy of the catering tent, set up in the loading bay area behind the Bowl. Not bad food either actually! The guys took a little time for a fan meet & greet (out in the open), so cut a little short on this occasion because of persistent rain.
Catering tent backstage, behind the Bowl and the guys do their pre-sho meet & greet.
This was a great show…I witnessed some stunning lead vocals…some totally Perry-esque moments, especially on Keep On Running, I'll Be Alright Without You, Lights and the song everybody seems to be talking about – Separate Ways, which Jeff has made his own already.
More than any other frontman I have seen perform; JSS feels what he is singing and just moved with such a grove that you feel his every movement is controlled by the note played at that precise moment – whether it be spontaneously falling on knees and pointing to Jon, or climbing up onto Deen's drum kit and later behind it, throwing his mike into Deen's face to allow the pair to sing together, or moving back forwards from the edge of the stage to be at Neal's feat grooving along with one of his classic solos.
You can't teach this stuff to a frontman, you can't force this from anyone…Jeff makes it seem easy.
And the rest of the guys seem to have gotten to know what Jeff is capable of and what he does and are equally as into it. When I saw the band in 2003, there was very little stage movement, but tonight, the guys were hopping from the start of the set to the finish.
For Journey, Jeff has somewhat altered his stage persona from his Talisman or solo band performances. More finesse I believe were Jonathan Cain's words.
Equally as addictive and energetic, but still that little bit different.
Neal commented backstage that he is personally receiving and also reading comments from friends and fans that they haven't heard a few of these songs sung so well – even during the Perry era. I asked Jeff about that when I interviewed him the next day. I got a cool response...
In the audience watching the Bowl show were musicians Warren DeMartini (Ratt), Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake), members of The Scorpions, media personality Danny Bonaduce, vocalist Keith St. John (Burning Rain, Montrose, Heaven & Earth) and drumming legend Carmine Appice.
Last but never least, Jeff's long time solo band guitarist Howie Simon and former drummer Alex Papa.
It was nice to see old mate Howie in the crowd backstage too. Sadly I did not see the coffee he was holding and ended up wet again after drying out from the earlier rain. Doh!
Howie is continuing to work with Graham Bonnet and hopefully 2007 will see the guys touring as Graham Bonnet's Alcatraz.
Keith St. John and myself backstage. Not sure what's going on with my hair there - I'll use the rain outside as my excuse.
Neal Schon's mom and step-dad had flown down from San Francisco to support the guys and introduced themselves backstage after the show.
Neal's mom was of course very proud, but it was step-dad Les that wanted to talk about the band and had the most to say. We had a good chat about what happened to the guys this year and where they are at now. His enthusiasm for Jeff and for the current live show was something else.
'I have seen it all...' he commented. 'I even saw Steve Perry's first show with the band'.
I had to ask more about that. 'Yes', said Les, 'he came out during the encore one night and did two songs, the band introduced him as their new singer.'
How about that – I never knew Steve made his debut during an encore!
Les continued on from his comment about seeing this band through all the years and went on to say that he hadn't seen the band is such good form, so energetic and alive, since Perry in the early 80s. And he loved the crowd reaction too.
The after-show party was a pretty tame affair in the VIP area adjacent to the Bowl roof. In fact, it was more a gathering of people looking for a party, so after just a few minutes we all headed home.
Day 3 - Saturday
It took forever to get to sleep last night. Jeff and I talked about the show in his studio before calling it a night. The rain was definitely a shame, but the night was a real winner - aside from Jeff falling on his ass.
But those socks saved him. 'You should have seen those things after the show' laughed Jeff. 'I threw them straight in the trash.'
Got up late, checked the net for reviews of the show from last night – found them to be very positive as usual.
The morning saw Jeff limping from his onstage fall the night before. His toe was the most affected, bruised already from twisting it when he went down.
I ran around with Jeff taking in lunch and a couple of other errands before we all headed off for the drive to San Bernardino.
It was a 2 hour drive and we were joined by friends of Jeff and Rebecca's – Alex Llorens – a name you might recognize, as he is a guitarist himself and fellow native Puerto Rican. He contributed guitar parts to both Prism and Lost In The Translation and was a super nice guy to spend some time with.
We had a call mid-trip from Neal – catching up from the tour bus about 30 minutes ahead of us; apparently there was some discussion about Journey running 4 minutes overtime the night before…
We all got to the show and caught up once again with Jeff's mom – this time with his step-dad in tow. I also met his brother Joey and his family. This was their second show also, but I missed them the night before.
His mom is such a cool lady. So proud of her son – 'we've waited 20 years for this' she beamed. 'Jeff is getting his big break. Hard work pays off'.
Funnily, around the table in the catering area before the show, talk turned to stage wear and how there had been a couple of comments from fans for Jeff to drop the torn jeans.
We all laughed, as did Jeff's mom, but she – like all moms in the world – commented that she would also like to see her son buy some new jeans – without holes.
More laughs, but at the heart of that is a very proud lady who, come concert time, was waving her hands in the air along with everyone else in that stadium.
Jeff later commented about seeing her in the audience, saying that each time he looked at her, he had to look away for fear of getting chocked up with the emotion of the evening.
The band got extra time for a full soundcheck today. Under grey skies, the guys ripped through a more varied set, featuring I'll Be Alright Without You, a very loose La Raza Del Sol, Rubicon, the big ballad Still They Ride (sung by Deen) and a rocked up Message Of Love.
It was during the closing moments of La Raza Del Sol that Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen appeared again, standing just behind Deen as the guys did their thing. He stayed on to watch them Soundcheck to Rubicon, taking in Deen's moves.
Neal wanders the stage during San Bernardino soundcheck.
Space was a little tighter backstage, but it was fun. I did my feature interviews with the guys – Jon and Deen in their dressing rooms; Jeff on the Journey tour bus and Neal in the dining area as he ate his dinner. Perhaps not the most opportune time for an interview, but Neal wasn't worried one bit. He was his usual straight talking self…definitely enjoying himself on stage, and just as much off stage.
Talked a little off the record with Neal, but talked a lot off the record with Deen. The guy is such a sweetheart – so genuine, so into what he is doing and definitely into Jeff. He really opened up and talked about the last couple of years and kept referring to Jeff as the guy that 'saved our asses'.
Anyway, Deen was having a very emotional week – his father-in-law had just passed away, as had Ross' father-in-law. Everyone was in support mode and you could tell that the ballads on stage these two nights were as much for the guys in the band as they were for the crowd.
Deen's father-in-law was someone that he was extremely close to, so before and after the show he was on the phone to family members and kept as brave a face as possible.
I think the emotion of the week and the adrenalin of the night before was in full swing – not to mention the fact that a full house of 20,000 fans was assembled out front – drove the guys to new high's as the San Bernardino show further eclipsed the awesome show from the night before.
After the show I bid an emotional farewell to Jeff and the guys as they set out for an all-night trek to New Mexico for the next show.
As I found out the next day following a phone call from Jeff, it turned out the guys had a day off and found themselves detouring to Las Vegas en route to New Mexico. A little R&R on the road!
And for those interested, the band travels in 2 custom equipped tour buses – all with extra wide bunks and all the mod-cons of home. One bus carries the band and crew, while the other bus is the designated family bus, meaning that one of the band can 'hire' it out for their family to come out on the road for a set period. It just means they can all travel together and have a little privacy at the same time. At this moment Ross had his family out for a 2 week stretch. I talked to Ross' wife, who endorsed the already stated great feedback of Jeff with the band and added that she thought he had a kind heart.
Day 4 - Sunday
Sunday. The day after. Time to relax. The adrenalin of the last 3 days was going to wear off, I knew it. So it was time to just relax and take in some of my favorite LA haunts.
After sleeping in, I got a lift with the ever accommodating Rebecca to Burbank airport to pick up a hire car.
I took in the quite awesome Glendale Galleria and got some pressies for the family back home and then drove over to Ralphs on Sunset for cookies and a few other essential American supplies.
I took in Sunset as I always do. Getting less to see though. Paid one last homage to Tower Records (R.I.P.) and even with a Going Out Of Business sale well underway, found everything too over-pried and left without buying anything. Now that was sad.
Took in the larger than life used CD warehouse Amoeba Records (no atmosphere…too big…wish Aaron's was still open); then Borders, and a few other places and headed back to Jeff's place for dinner with his wife Rebecca.
Dinner was spent reminiscing over how I got started with my Journey coverage and the history of my featuring the guys on the site. Brought back some fond memories.
Day 5 - Monday
I love flying home. I hate the flight home. Can't wait to see the wife and kids – this is the first time I have left 2 kids behind, so I've missed everyone big time.
Back to that flight - my work is done, it's time to go home, but still, I have to sit through 17 hours of monotonous flying to get there.
What's more, the dickhead in front of me has decided to go into full recline already, so it's cramped as hell trying to type. Not that it was roomy before hand…
One day I'll get to fly business…one day….when I get a real job….haha.
In flight entertainment has just started. Kath And Kim is playing. Fabulous. But most reading this won't have heard of it. It's an Aussie comedy…get it from a torrent site. No, not all Australians are like that!
I feel like I have been gone 2 weeks. Man did I get some stuff done in my 5 days on the ground. I just saw 2 of the greatest rock shows. San Bernardino will rank in my Top 5 of all time…it was that good.
I was just interrupted by dinner. Beef (apparently)…looked like something a cat might just have thrown up and took all of 2.5 minutes to eat. Glad I stocked up on cookies and chocolate before leaving LA. Much healthier.
So Day 5 was taken pretty lightly. Didn't get up too early and did a little shopping for the kids before heading back to collect my bags and stuff, ready for departure.
Friday night I ran into Doug Aldrich backstage after the Journey set.
Great to finally meet him in person, super nice guy. We didn't have much time to talk, so he said to give him a call. That I did and we chatted for a while about all things Whitesnake and Burning Rain. Will add his comments to the frontpage news.
Time to reflect on what I have just witnessed and hopefully will witness again in the not too distant future. What I see is the birth of a new era and a new fresh and hungry group of musicians that still have a lot to offer the world and intend on doing just that.
My Take On Journey 2006
There is talk among a few fans of Journey turning into Soul Sirkus. Not even close folks. Jeff Scott Soto more than anybody is fully aware of what the name Journey means and I believe the whole line-up is on the same page as to what kind of album will be made during 2007.
Jonathan Cain says the band will take their time making it. Neal says he is writing some really melodic stuff for Jeff to sing and wants to do live TV and live Video Clips like the old days.
Journey 2007 and onwards will be a kick-ass band that is truly fired-up, inspired and ready to take on the world. But it will still be 100% Journey.
In Jeff Scott Soto, the band now has a frontman that is a more seasoned songwriter, used to writing songs constantly – be it on his own or in a collaborative effort.
I believe the combination of Schon/Cain/Soto will be able to create something truly special for all Journey fans.
Everyone is behind this line-up and is committed to making sure no stone is left unturned in their quest for world domination (again).
All the guys know very well what the name of the band means to fans and all will be doing their very best to ensure they add to the legacy and create an album that gives them every opportunity to break new ground and hold onto their rightful place as one of the world's best melodic rock groups.
c. 2006 / Andrew McNeice & MelodicRock.com