at Assembly Hall, Champaign, IL, USA, December 4, 2005

It was a frigid December night as “Jack Frost” made an early appearance by “nipping at the noses” of Chicagoan fans at The University Of Illinois Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois, USA. On this evening, the 10,000 capacity arena played host to one of the last legs of Journey’s 2005 USA tour. It’s hard to believe that this tour culminated in a celebration of 30 years of Journey as a band! Additionally, this was also the promotional tour for this year’s Generations release … an album enjoyed by Metal Express Radio (see the review by clicking here) but, for the most part, an album ill-received by quite a few Journey fans. Even so, there was a respectable crowd in attendance this evening.

The profile of the crowd was made up entirely of the stereotypical Journey fan (predominately an older crowd, couples, groups of female fans, etc.). Unfortunately, for the first three quarters of the set, the fans inside Assembly Hall were just as frigid as “Jack Frost” was outside. In spite of a rousing Journey performance, the crowd displayed an initial undeserved lack of appreciation towards the band. For the first hour and half, there was atypical minimal standing, dancing, crowd vocal accompaniment, etc. Hopefully this was due, in part, to the crowd’s average age and the fact that there were no liquor sales at this event. Thankfully, the crowd came alive and reached crescendo later in the night by releasing all of their pent up energy.

With no warm-up act hitting the stage on this night, the band opened promptly at 7:30 pm with a rousing rendition of “Be Good To Yourself.” For this opening, there were no fancy entrances or fire pots, explosions, elevators, fog machines, etc., just straight-ahead mature Rock with no frills or fine print attached. This even showed in the fact that both Neal Schon and Ross Valory prefer to play “corded” guitars versus going wireless, which is the approach of today’s pubescent guitarists.

The night’s set list was commendable and covered the majority of the band’s hits and fan favorites, with the Escape and Frontiers releases being well represented. Absent from the set list was the inclusion of any songs with lead vocals sung by Neal Schon or Ross Valory. While understandable, since a live setting might not be their favorite lead vocal forte’, it just seemed missing from a tone set by the Generations release where every band member took the mantle of lead vocals at least once.

Next up were “Ask The Lonely” and “Only The Young.” Astonishingly, both are soundtrack cuts and are deemed worthy enough to start off a concert, while also being held in high esteem by the fans. Enough can’t be said about lead vocalist Steve Augeri’s performance… he was animated, moved across the stage a lot, and didn’t miss a beat on the classic Journey songs. He also sounded top-notch when representing his own newer material, e.g., “Place In Your Heart.” Augeri also rounds out his value by helping out on rhythm guitar during a few songs. In the studio, there should be no doubt about his abilities in replacing the great vocal talent of Steve Perry, but his live performance puts the definite “nail in the coffin.”

Steve - Neal Closeup It also didn’t take Neal Schon a long time to get into high gear as the fourth song into the set, “Faith In The Heartland” (the set list’s first new track), included a Neal Schon solo. Neal started off his solo with a heartfelt guitar rendition of the USA’s “National Anthem,” which brought everyone to their feet in respect. Neal was also in prime fashion during the set’s highlight: “Chain Reaction” from the Frontiers release. This song had an extended solo and came off very heavy sounding live, while exuding a high degree of energy.

Neal’s “partner in crime” (Bad English, Soul Sirkus, etc.), drummer Deen Castronovo, surprised the crowd in not only handling lead vocals during “Patiently” from Infinity, but by also singing very commendable lead vocals on “Still They Ride.” It was remarkable how close he sounded to and represented both of the two Steves. Deen was also no slouch behind the drum kit, as he banged it out pretty hard and also in an animated fashion, especially on songs like “Stone In Love.” Deen’s come a long way since his early Shrapnel Records days, it seems.

No less talented, Bassist Ross Valory almost seemed to get overlooked as he confidently keeps rhythm while pacing the stage back and forth. Now and then he reminded everyone he’s around by making a zany face at an adoring fan. In truth, Ross is crazier in person then his stage persona might lead one to believe (check out Metal Express Radio’s interview with Ross online).

Neal In BlueThe “curve ball” of the evening was the inclusion of “Mystery Mountain” in the set, which is a track from the very first Journey album. It was aptly sung by Jonathon Cain and had quite a progressive feel to it. While one can understand the sentimental value in including this number in a 30-year anniversary tour, it did very little to spur the crowd, especially since it was the seventh song in a twenty-four song set.

Finally, the crowd awakened at the tail end of the performance, during an energetic set of “Anyway You Want It,” “Faithfully,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and “Separate Ways.” It just seemed like a Jekyll and Hyde crowd this evening, because at this point, they were heavily cheering, standing, vocalizing, swaying to and fro (embraced in each others arms) during “Faithfully,” etc. It really helped increase the excitement and intensity, and hopefully the band’s spirit, before they exited the stage.

For an encore, it seemed like a no-brainer that they would play “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.” They threw the crowd off-guard as they started the encore with a Bluesy intro, which was filled with some unexpected harmonic playing by the talented, multi-faceted (Keys/Piano, Vocals, Rhythm Guitar) Chicago homeboy, Jonathan Cain. Jonathan ended up trading harmonic licks with Neal’s guitar in an almost Plant-Page like banter before leading into “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.”

All in all, a great and solid performance (crowd reaction notwithstanding), which seemed to solidify Journey’s deserving place in Rock even after a 30-year tenure.

Setlist (~115 minutes)

Be Good To Yourself * Ask The Lonely * Only The Young * Faith In The Heartland * Neal Schon Solo * Stone In Love * Wheel In The Sky * Mystery Mountain * Patiently * The Place In Your Heart * Feeling That Way * Anytime * Lights * Still They Ride * Every Generation * Chain Reaction * Who’s Crying Now? * Jonathon Cain Solo * Open Arms * Escape * Anyway You Want It * Faithfully * Don’t Stop Believin’ * Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) * Encore * Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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