Journey

Streetlights, people - and a Filipino singer? Belfast's summer of rock continues

Belfast’s rock fraternity has never had it so good. Mere days after the Odyssey’s roof was blown off by the triple-header of Def Leppard, Alice Cooper and Thin Lizzy, another trio of legendary hard-edged acts has rolled into town.

Tonight, it’s Journey, Foreigner and FM’s turn to strut their stuff for the assembled long-hairs. Though, to be fair, thanks to Journey’s ubiquitous mega-hit ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ – heard in everything from The Sopranos to Glee – there are just as many curious punters in the audience, the type of folk you suspect wouldn’t know their ‘DC from their ZZ.

Reformed British outfit FM open proceedings with a tight half-hour of radio-friendly sounds. Opening with the superb ‘Wildside’ from comeback album Metropolis, the heroically upbeat fivesome warm the crowd up nicely.

In the middle slot, rejuvenated UK-US mob Foreigner deliver a thrilling hour of 70s and 80s anthems. Founding guitarist Mick Jones has assembled a cracking line-up around himself and new frontman Kelly Hansen, a Lou Gramm soundalike and Steven Tyler lookalike. Hansen makes the stage his own, even climbing down into the stalls at one point to go walkabout.

The revitalised six-piece belt out classics like ‘Feels Like the First Time’, ‘Hot Blooded’ and ‘Juke Box Hero’, as well as the trusty ballads ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You’ and ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’, which have grown men weeping into their pints. Foreigner nearly steal the show – but not quite. Because with Filipino bundle-of-energy lead singer Arnel Pineda at the helm, Journey are on the best form of their long career.

On this dreary, rainy evening, the AOR survivors bring a big slice of sunny San Francisco to Belfast. The iconic group cram nearly 40 years of hits into 90 minutes, opening with ‘Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)’ from the Frontiers album. ‘Ask the Lonely’ and ‘Stone in Love’ sound amazing, as does the material from new CD Eclipse, their second with Pineda.

Disappointingly, there’s nothing from the Asian crooner’s first release with the band, 2008’s Revelation, but who cares when you can replicate Rodney Dangerfield’s dance moves from Caddyshack during ‘Any Way You Want It’?

The only real quibble is that due to the constraints of the triple bill, Journey aren’t able to play quite as many songs as they did at their Irish debut in 2008, at Dublin’s National Stadium – which remains one of this writer’s all-time top five concerts. Still, by the time they get to set-closer ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’, the entire Odyssey – including the staff – is singing and dancing along, mad grins plastered across their faces.

Guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain have done an excellent job of rebuilding this band after vocalist issues, record label woes and changing fashions throughout the 90s and noughties. Indeed, who’d have thought Journey would be selling out arenas in Ireland in 2011? And with Bryan Adams and Iron Maiden still to come, Belfast’s summer of rock is far from over.

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