Journey, Def Leppard, Cheap Trick bring the ’80s to Target Field

July 28, 2018

Nobody cruises around in Chevettes or feathers their hair anymore, but Friday nights concert at Target Field proved many Minnesotans still havent given up the rock anthems that accompanied those bygone activities of early-80s American youth.

Journey and Def Leppard came to town on a co-headlining tour crammed with the most Top 40 rock hits ever played in one night at the Minneapolis ballpark. If you owned a radio between 1980 and 1990 and didnt damage your brain with too much aerosol hair spray, you would have recognized three-fourths of the songs performed.

That familiarity bred a nearly sold-out crowd of about 40,000 fans, mostly 40 and up in age. They arrived under cool summer weather that perfectly complemented the concerts breezy, windows-down, lighters-up tone.

Sadly, only about half the audience showed up in time for opening act Cheap Trick. Unlike the headliners, the Illinois rockers spiked their 45-minute set with a killer new song, Summer Looks Good on You. Also unlike the headliners, they showed up with a singer, Robin Zander, with nearly as much power and range in his voice as he had 30-plus years ago, proven in the fiery classics Dream Police and Surrender.

Taking the middle slot Friday they alternate headlining duties from city to city, maybe based on local groupie status Def Leppards members still very much looked the part of 80s rock stars.

Beefcakey guitarist Phil Collen came out shirtless with wraparound sunglasses. Bassist Rick Savage wore a pink Miami Vice-like blazer. And frontman Joe Elliott coolly strutted out onto the thrust stage in opening tune Rocket and whipped around his healthy mane of blonde hair.

Alas, Elliotts vocals didnt sound as natural as his hair looked. He hoarsely worked through other hits early in the bands 90-minute set such as Animal and Foolin, but whenever the songs big, ultra-polished choruses came around, the vocals somehow sounded bigger than ever.

Of course, Elliott and the band got ample singing help from the crowd. After a boring middle segment that included the 2015 dud Man Enough and a cover of David Essexs Rock On, the British vets finished with a stream of hits, including an encore of Rock of Ages and Photograph.

There will be a next time! Elliott yelled at the end.

Journey bought itself a whole lot of next times when it found current singer Arnel Pineda on YouTube from the Philippines in 2007. Pineda has since outlasted hitmaker singer Steve Perrys tenure in the band, but his primary selling point 11 years later is still how much he sings just like Perry did back in the day.

Guitarist Neal Schon raised the nostalgia level for Perry when he introduced the 1977 back seat make-out anthem Lights.

This is the second song I ever wrote with Steve Perry, Schon said. Its dedicated to him and our city by the bay.

Journeys big issue Friday wasnt how imitational Pineda sounded, but rather how poorly the entire operation sounded. The acoustics were not problematic during Def Leppard, but turned muddy throughout the headlining set.

The nights rockiest tunes, such as Escape, Lovin, Touchin, Squeezinandthinsp; and Wheel in the Sky, especially fell flat in the mix. Conversely, Jonathan Cains mellow, Yanni-like solo piano segment came through clearly.

The shows key moments still rose above the sonic din, though. Stone in Love with its refrain of Those summer nights are calling was a home run in the ballpark setting. Obviously, so was the wait-for-it finale of Dont Stop Believin, a song played at just about every ballgame there. But rarely does the crowd sing it so literally.

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