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Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy at the Minnesota State Fair, 9/1/12

Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy at the Minnesota State Fair, 9/1/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

Journey, Pat Benatar featuring Neil Giraldo, Loverboy
September 2, 2012
Minnesota State Fair Grandstand

Looking kind of like what a band of dudes who jam out in a suburban basement to Loverboy tunes might look like, the Canadian band Loverboy took to the stage as the sun set on an amazing Saturday night at the Minnesota State Fair. As the Grandstand began to fill for the sold-out crowd eager to rock with an exhausting three-band bill of '80s radio and karaoke staples Loverboy delivered a short but sweet set of their tour de force A-side butt rock they have been known for since their self-titled debut record lit the flame in 1981.

Sounding as if time had never passed, singer Mike Reno led the mostly all original Loverboy lineup and enthusiastic audience through each power pop charged chorus with a strong voice and youthful advance. What would begin as a whole night of sing-alongs, "Lovin' Every Minute of It", "The Kid is Hot Tonite" and "Hot Girls in Love" gave everyone a chance to shout and raise a fist in nostalgic spirit bringing everyone to their feet as if we were in any of the band's iconic music videos.

Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy at the Minnesota State Fair, 9/1/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

While guitarist Paul Dean delivered mostly understated solos throughout the set, it was the unmistakable steady groove of bassist Kenneth "Spider" Sinnaeve (who replaced original bassist, Scott Smith who died in a boating accident in 2000) intro to "Turn Me Loose" that really caught fire. With only "Working for the Weekend" providing the final swift knockout for the abbreviated set, Loverboy really left everyone really wanting more.

Next up without hesitation it became obvious why Pat Benatar, who was dressed in a modest Asian style trenchcoat, shares billing with her greaser husband, Neil Giraldo. The couple who've collaborated now for 32 and been married 30 years now reminisced on their successful career playing off each other and often trading stories in between songs. The stage was as much a showcase for "Spyder" to exhibit not only his precious collection of vintage guitars but his dynamic playing and approach. While it may have taken a song or two for Benatar to warm up her husky vocal chords through "All Fired Up" and "Invincible" with Giraldo often switching to piano and acoustic guitar she lead the Grandstand through, "A song I know many of you have sung at karaoke" as the strains of "We Belong" brought an air of sweetness to the otherwise rough and rugged run through of oustanding hits.

"We remember getting the call from our manager this next song was going to be played on this new video music channel," Benatar recalled. "Since the first song they played was all keyboards we can say Spyder was the first guitarist to appear on MTV." As the audience cheered, Giraldo tore into the 1980 single, "You Better Run."

With a kind of bizarre explanation of his guitar of choice he nicknamed "Pain," "Because that's what this guitar causes me." Giraldo baffled even Benatar as the two compounded with a breakneck "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and "Love is a Battlefield" that had most of the ladies in attendence acting out the dance routine in the famous video.

Finishing off with an extended "Heartbreaker", Benatar delivered a ferocious send up of the confrontational anthem that ultimately climaxed with a detour into Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" with Giraldo even taking liberty to inject the Led Zeppelin song of the same name for a final blast to knock everyone out.

 

After a short break it would appear that Giraldo's wild guitar dramatics would only be a tip of the iceberg for the evening as headliners, Journey would bring things to the next level with guitarist Neil Schon's wonderful guitar wankery and endless rock hits.

Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy at the Minnesota State Fair, 9/1/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

With an amazing stage and video set the veteran band, with the exuberant Arnel Pineda who's taken over duties left behind by legendary vocalist Steve Perry in equal parts stage presence and vocal abilities most effectively committed to the long lineage of material the now packed Grandstand came to hear.

No easy shoes to fill, Pineda not only carries a similar range and quality of voice but has truly imbued new life into the band and their classic songs since joining Journey in 2008 after being discovered by Schon via YouTube videos filmed in his native Manila.

Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy at the Minnesota State Fair, 9/1/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

In tight leather pants, a hoodie and an AC/DC t-shirt, Pineda carried the band and audience, galavanting about the huge stage, tossing his microphone into the air and pouncing upon the stage monitors as if threatening to dive into the sea of adoring fans. With the massive choruses of "Any Way You Want It","Only the Young", "Who's Crying Now" and "Faithfully" Journey seemed to really be enjoying themselves on this perfect night as the glow from the smiles in the audience rivaled the intricate and futuristic light display on stage.

Eventually Neil Schon took an elongated solo that dived into the "Star Spangled Banner" with a gigantic American flag lit up on stage which seemed as arbitrary as it was indulgent but most didn't seem to mind as it gave Pineda, and band, who'd really worked up a sweat a chance to freshen up for another radio favorite, 1981's "Stone in Love."

Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy at the Minnesota State Fair, 9/1/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

Encouraging everyone to get their lighters and phones up in the air the Grandstand sparkled for "Lights", "Wheels in Sky" and ultimately the roller rink standard, "Open Arms" that caused most couples in the audience to swoon if not completely start making out.

While keyboardist Jonathan Cain would switch between piano and guitar he'd take over vocals for "Anytime" allowing Pineda to take over as go team captain of sorts getting the crowd into each send up of the chorus. Continuing with "Be Good to Yourself" and "Don't Stop Believing" Pineda practically addressed individual members of the first few rows, serenading them with the inspirational lyrics. As if that wasn't enough once Cain hit the opening keyboard part to "Separate Ways(Worlds Apart)" the place seemed to go completely berzerk really reaching a fever pitch of high energy on and off the stage.

After a short breather, at last for an encore the band returned to the stage with a blues jam of sorts that evolved into the another big hit for the band from 1979, "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" that allowed Pineda to further tease the audience with his sly moves.

Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy at the Minnesota State Fair, 9/1/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

In all you have to imagine for a band that has been going on for 40 years in one form or another, they've played these songs so many times they could play them in their sleep or easily phone them in but it seemed pretty evident they truly get into the music and the crowd. With Pineda along for the ride there is new energy that really comes across and the audience loves them all the more for it. People get cynical about this stuff often referring to Pineda as "fake Steve Perry." Granted he sounds exactly like him but he's managed to carve his own approach and appeal in reinvigorating the band and they come across brilliantly because of it. There aren't many other bands that have that story or longevity.

Critic's Bias: Still have all my old Journey cassette tapes and the same Walkman with which I listened to whilst mowing the lawn.

The Crowd: All ages and the more and more inebriated with age.

Overheard in the Crowd: When Loverboy hit the stage, "Good to see I wasn't the only one who's gotten fat."

Random Notebook Dump: It became evident Pineda really didn't know where he was, continually referring to everyone as "Minneapolis" until perhaps someone corrected him as he changed it to "Minnesota" mid-set. A simple mistake. But if he didn't know where he was that was ok, I was unsure what decade we were really in Saturday night.

Setlists:

LOVERBOY
Queen of Broken Hearts
Lovin' Every Minute of It
The Kid is Hot Tonite
When It's Over
Hot Girls in Love
Turn Me Loose
Working for the Weekend

PAT BENATAR
All Fired Up
Invincible
Promises in the Dark
We Belong
You Better Run
Hit Me with your Best Shot
Love is a Battlefield
Let's Stay Together
Heartbreaker

JOURNEY
Faith in the Heartland
Any Way You Want It
Ask the Lonely
Only the Young
Who's Crying Now
Faithfully
Star Spangled Banner
Stone in Love
Lights
Wheel in the Sky
Escape
Open Arms
La Do Da
Anytime
Be Good to Yourself
Don't Stop Believin'
Separate Ways(Worlds Apart)

Encore:
Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'


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