Journey, Foreigner & Styx - MEN Manchester - 8 June 2011

Styx, Foreigner & Journey at MEN Manchester, mmmm where to begin? I know £45 for 3 top bands, take note Rush!

First up were Styx who I have to admit are one of my favourite bands so I'm a bit biased. First saw them way back in 1980 then last time a couple of years ago at the Apollo in Manchester where they really rocked and got the house jumping. Sadly, although they tried, they just couldn't pull it off this time. Being first up and in such a big arena and also what I'd call a very un-Styx crowd i.e. lots of women waiting for the copious ballads on offer (more about this below) they struggled to get the crowd involved. However they weren't helped by coming onto a virtually a half full arena, lots of people I assume late due to the early 7pm start, although they also didn't help themselves by coming on over 5 mins before the scheduled time. Even I missed the opening bars of Grand Illusion! Anyway Tommy (General Custer), JY & crew belted out 8 classic songs which were performed with, lets say gusto. They even wheeled out Chuck Panozzo half way through. Set list included in no particular order (sorry I dont take notes its just from memory, I'm usually just enjoying the music):

The Grand Illusion
Blue Collar Man
Too Much Time on my hands
Come sail away
Fooling Yourself
Miss America
Encore, Renegade
And thankfully no bloody Babe!

After an impressively quick 20min turn round it was Foreigners turn. Again a band I'd seen before but this time not for many a year. I must admit I was seriously worried about the lack of Lou Gramm as I'd not heard anything they've done since Agent Provocateur back in the 80's. However I needn't have worried as Kelly Hansen was excellent, even if he does look like a cross between Steve Tyler & Joey Ramone! This time a 9 track set of absolute classics were dished up in style backed up by plenty of fancy stage lighting & animations. Kellys vocals were top drawer, never missing a note, even during his impromptu tour of the audience and Mick Jones switched from guitar to keyboards and back again like the consummate professional he his. The top top sax solo during Urgent also deserves a mention! Sadly a lot of the crowd only seemed to 'wake up' during the two killer ballads. So much so that you wonder if thats all they actually came to hear. Again in no particular order tracks were:

Double vision
Cold as ice
Waiting for a girl like you
Hot blooded
Feels like the 1st time
Head games
I want to know what love is
Encore, Juke box hero

And finally Journey. Again another of my faves but due to Mr Perrys aversion to all things English didn't get to see until a few years back. Had yet to see them with Arnel but having heard what he came up with on Revelation I was looking forward to it despite some of the reports I'd read about bad sound on previous nights... open mind and all that. Opened up with Separate Ways bang on 9.30! Sadly I didn't recognise it until Neals guitar came in as Jonathons keyboard intro was inaudible. Arnel then decided to sing the first verse twice, not a good start methinks! Anyway into track two, honestly cant remember what it was but noteable for the 2 bum notes from Neal. Yes you heard that right, 2 bum notes from Neal. Now I'm no expert and my hearing is suffering after 30 years of loud concerts but I am familiar enough with Journeys music to know when somethings not right (bugger I wish I could remember the track!). Anyway from that point on there were no more slip ups and the 90 minutes stormed by. Don't ask me what tracks were played, I can remember some as shown below but certainly not all. Especially as I don't own or have even heard Eclipse yet! On a personal note I think the choice of what seemed about 5-6 tracks from their new album let it down a bit as nowadays few of what I'd call the older bands actually tour to promote record sales. Most of them realise its a nostalgia trip for us 40 and 50 somethings who want to be treated to a relentless onslaught of back catalogue tracks to sing along to. But thats just me and whilst I can understand why they did it I felt I'd missed out a bit.

Tracks included:

Anyway you want it
Be good to yourself
Butterfly (she flies alone)
Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'
Open arms
Send her my love
Wheel in the sky
City of hope (didnt know any of the others off Eclipse)
Curiously no 'Whos crying now' and the Deen Castranovo sung track I'd been expecting never materialised. However as I thought the biggest cheer was for the “glee” resurrected Don't stop believin, to me proving the fact that what seemed the majority were only there for the ballads/famous stuff! Lets face it Journey have much much better songs that they don't play live.
Overall certainly worth £45 to see 3 top bands but I think trying to cram all three into a 4 hour hour session, including changeovers didnt work and in future I'll stick to seeing fantastic bands such as these as headliners.

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