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Saturday, 19th August 2006

Irvine, CA - Media Reviews

Def Leppard, Journey dig up oldies for radio fest By Erik Pedersen

You can almost visualize the guy who provides the voice of Jack FM - and when he crows about the station "playing what we want," you want to smack that smug smile off his face.

It's been 17 months since southern California was introduced to the radio iPod that is the Jack format, and KCBS' inaugural concert Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater showcased bands that exemplify its notion of modern classic rock. No, that's not an oxymoron; it's what this DJ-free, focus group-approved format is all about.

Jack FM targets pop-rock fans who were anywhere from grade school to grad school during the Reagan administration. And if this were 1984, the lineup for Jack's First Show could have been billed as Cal Jam III: Def Leppard, Journey, Billy Idol, Cheap Trick and Violent Femmes. The enthusiastic performances ranged from darn good to "well, that was on the radio when I was making out in my mom's Nova," but because this was not a radio station-as-tastemaker festival, the playing didn't really matter. Instead, it was an unapologetic seven-hour nostalgia trip on a grand summer night with short beer lines.

Absent from the bill - and the between-set PA music - was the '80s synth pop of Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, et al., which Jack famously added to the established classic rock format to draw a younger demo. But Jack specifically chose to stick with flailing guitars over keyboards because, ultimately, this was an attempt to re-create of the 1980s arena rawk concert experience - and as such, it was an old-school success.

After a peppy and well-received opening set by Violent Femmes, Cheap Trick deployed its O.G. power pop, including such rave-ups as "Surrender" and "California Man." The crowd politely welcomed the raucous "Welcome to the World," which was among the smattering of new material the veteran acts presented during the evening.

Journey then puzzlingly took the stage to the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," with founder Neal Schon striding on during the "Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss" line. Singer Jeff Scott Soto filled in for the ailing Steve Augeri, and his eager-beaver amalgam of frontman cliches made him look a runner-up on "Rock Star: Journey." The quintet's bland rock earned decidedly distaff cheers.

One sight during Journey's set served as a definition of Jack FM's target demo: the commingled glow of Bics and cell phones being held in the air during "Lights."

There were plenty of partied-out fans as Def Leppard closed the show with 90 minutes of mostly mammoth hits. Singer Joe Elliott's voice is a semblance of what it was in its heyday, but he gamely soldiered through with a longtime rock star's aplomb. Criss-crossing guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell's fingers flew, while the original rhythm section of Rick Allen and Rick Savage supplied the knee-bobbing backbone. As Def Leppard moves toward its 30th year, its once-mighty live act has settled in for the long haul. But it remains a spectacle.

Sorta like Jack's First Show. There were plenty of ringing ears and aching heads scattered around southern California on Sunday morning - along with knowing grins.

By Reuters 2006.

Jack FM fest: Journey is the wild card By Steve Fryer

With new singer Jeff Scott Soto, the group is the standout at Jack FM's first fest. There was nothing wrong with the way Def Leppard performed. They rocked the house with their usual exuberance and commitment. However, guys, you got beat Saturday night. It is difficult to write this. But, heck, it’s true: Journey won this Battle of the Bands.

Def Leppard headlined the five-band mini-festival at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. It was called “Jack’s First Show,” as it was the first concert the FM radio station has packaged and presented. Violent Femmes started the event, followed by Cheap Trick, Billy Idol, then Journey and finally Def Leppard.

It was a full house at a venue that presently can’t handle a full house. More on that later.

Def Leppard and Journey have been on the road together all summer, a sort of co-headlining tour in which Journey opens for Def Leppard. Both are armed with a long list of hits and concert favorites, and both are playing very well right now.

Def Leppard was scheduled to start its set at 9:30 p.m., but Journey played until 9:25, so that wasn’t going to happen. The Leps hit the stage closer to 10, and played to an audience that started trickling out of the place by 10:30. By the time they finished around 11:15, with “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” there were a few thousand fewer spectators then were on hand when Journey finished, so maybe headlining these seven-hour gigs is not that attractive.

Any time you get to witness the marvel that is the drumming of one-armed Rick Allen, it’s a worthwhile evening. When he first came back to Def Leppard, in 1987, after the car accident that took his left arm, Allen was aided by a lot of trickery in concert. It’s almost completely organic now, and watching him closely one can only be impressed.

The double-guitar buzz of Def Leppard’s Phil Collen (an Orange County resident) and Viv Campbell worked great again Saturday night, especially on “Letting Go,” “Armageddon It” and “Animal.” Singer Joe Elliott’s voice was a tad raw, but that’s typical on stage and he still was fine on the more challenging songs like “Love Bites.”

A set-list complaint: not enough of “Yeah!” That’s the new Def Leppard album, a great collection of covers mostly from Britain’s early-‘70s glam rock phase. They played David Essex’s “Rock On,” featuring a cool opening bit of bass from Rik Savage; and Badfinger’s “No Matter What,” which they have been playing live for a couple of years now.

It would have been nice to hear them open with Mott the Hoople’s “The Golden Age of Rock And Roll” – just like Mott did in ’74! And where was “Waterloo Sunset,” or “Stay With Me?”

Well, maybe those will find their way into the set list when Def Leppard plays at the Hollywood Bowl and Hyundai Pavilion in October. Journey is opening those two local shows, too. Journey threw down the gauntlet Saturday night, so let’s see how Def Leppard responds when they return in a couple of months. (read the rest via the link)

By Orange County Register 2006.


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