Words and pictures by Duane Clawson
It’s hard to fathom that the bands listed above have been making music for combined total of 135 years! If that doesn’t get your attention, nothing will! These musicians are considered to be the equivalent of rock and roll royalty. So without further ado, let’s dive into this big pot of rock and roll stew! Formed in 1968, in Oakland, California, Tower of Power was at first a collaboration between Emilio Castillo and Stephen Kupka, known back in those days as The Motowns. In 1970, a name change was in order and more musicians were added to the lineup. Throughout their career, Tower’s horn section has been featured with artists ranging from Aerosmith to Rod Stewart. Tower let St. Louis know they came to play as they stared off their set with the funky, “We Came to Play”, from the 1978 album of the same title. Tower’s lead singer, Ray Greene, provided the vocals that are more than powerful enough to compete with this monster horn section. Not long into Tower’s set, Mr. Greene had worked up a sweat as he patrolled the stage, stopping only to let the horns emphasize a poignant point in some moving pieces of music. In their all too short set, Tower of Power managed to work in a couple of their classics such as “Soul Vaccination” and “What Is Hip”. So far, a great start to the night!
As the sun set on Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, the outline of two Pegasus stallions began to glow at the back of a black stage. Symbolizing one artist, and one artist only, the legendary Steve Miller Band. I don’t think there is much need for a history lesson or list of Steve Miller’s accomplishments, as I feel he should be known by most of the free world! Starting as a blues guitarist in Chicago, Miller soon found an affection for psychedelic rock, putting out a string of these genre-based albums in the late 60’s. In 1973, the Band began to focus on straight up rock and roll and the rest is history. Miller keeps his performance simple and to the point. Keeping the stage fairly dark, the Band moves from hit to hit as Miller maintains his spot at center stage, occasionally peeking out from behind his mic stand. But at 71 years old, one would not expect any acrobatics from this elder statesman of rock and roll. I can say with great certainty everyone wants hear the Steve Miller classics, and the Band was happy to oblige. Out of a setlist of 19 songs, only two were not recognizable to me within the first few notes. Throughout the Band’s set, I was reminded of the power of music and how the good stuff is passed on from generation to generation, as kids from 8 to 80 sung along with songs like “Jet Airliner" and “The Joker”. Of course a Steve Miller show would not be complete without “Fly Like an Eagle” and as predicted, Miller closed his time on stage with this classic rock staple!
Alright, before I give you the low down on Journey I have to make a confession. As a younger man, I did not care for this band! Well let me clarify a bit, I didn’t like the 80’s Journey. Being a metal kid of the 80’s, Journey was the antichrist. I’m still a metal kid of the 80’s but I have mellowed with time and I have also discovered that there was a Journey before the 80’s, not mention some world class musicians in the band. On with the show. Journey, like the previous opening bands, has quite a history. Formed in 1973 by guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Gregg Rolie, former members of Santana’s backing band, the group focused on a jazz fusion style of music. With little commercial success, the band acquired the services of frontman Steve Perry in 1977. Through many years of hits, misses, and quitting all together, the band has prevailed, leading us to tonight’s show. In a risky move in 2007, the band brought on Filipino lead singer, Arnel Pineda, after seeing him perform Journey covers on YouTube. If there are any doubts of Pineda’s abilities, they are quickly removed the moment his voice hits the amphitheater’s massive, suspended, speaker system. Working the entire stage, the small framed frontman is anything but shy as he fills some mighty big vocal shoes. The senior members of Journey seem to have no trouble keeping up with their considerably younger vocalist. After moving seamlessly between hits such as, “Be Good to Yourself, “Separate Ways”, and “Any Way You Want It”, the band finally takes a breather as Mr. Schon treats us to his take on “The Star Spangled Banner”. “Lights", “Open Arms”, and “Wheel in the Sky” provided the perfect opportunity for St. Louisans to show off their harmonizing abilities. Winding down the main body of the show Journey played their power ballad and many sports teams favorite playoff song, “Don’t Stop Believin’”. Complete with a confetti bath and blazing lighting effects. A short pause before the Journey sound crew brought the volume up as the band let it all hang out on “Lovin, Touchin, Squeezin". Whew, what a night! Thanks to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater Crew for their hospitality and to Live Nation for granting MTC access to this show. Photos of the show are below:
Contributed by Duane Clawson
Journey / Steve Miller / Tower of Power @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Maryland Heights, MO Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on 12:00:00 PM Rating: