in Chicago, Illinois, USA, July 19, 2006

Its been a heck of a year for 80’s bands hitting the road and gracing diehard fans with what can best be termed “revival tours.” Among these are Poison, Cinderella, and Stryper, just to name a few. On this night, the 19th of July 2006, the mighty Def Leppard, accompanied by the legendary Journey, made their presence known at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre situated just west of Chicago, Illinois, USA. This venue, which is capable of housing in excess of 20,000, was well occupied with fans spanning several generations, the majority being middle-aged fans that most likely have fond memories of both of these bands from their “younger days.” The fans might have been “slightly” older, and less rowdy, but they nonetheless still enjoy their favorite “beverage” (best represented by American-brewed beers). Although the alcohol was “flowing,” the crowd seemed to behave reasonably well.

The evening’s festivities were kicked off by an unannounced “plug-in” Kentucky, USA-born artist named Stoll Vaughan, who was a one-man singing show, accompanied only with his acoustic guitar and harmonica. For the most part, he was well-received by the mature, scant crowd that was already seated this early in the evening, even if his musical style (akin to early Bruce Springsteen) didn’t quite seem to match the musical genre of this night’s main acts.


Journey PicJourney started promptly on time, and immediately grabbed the audience’s attention by opening with a Neal Schon solo rendition of the USA’s national anthem … the “Star Spangled Banner.” This was a noble gesture, and well-received, especially with the older crowd in attendance and the current state of affairs in the Middle East.

Of course, what happened next was probably a shock to casual Journey fans, but was certainly an item of speculation for hard-core Journey followers … the appearance of one of Hard Rock’s greatest singers, Jeff Scott Soto (the man needs no introduction for listeners of Metal Express Radio, does he?). The unwary in attendance might have missed the press release about Soto filling in for an ailing Steve Augeri (hopefully his throat problems aren’t an ongoing “curse” germane to Journey lead singers). For the Hard Rock fan, Soto’s stand-in might seem like a dream come true — seeing him front one of the best Melodic Hard Rock bands in history and rejoining his bandmates from Soul Sirkus (Schon and original Sirkus drummer Castronovo). The only questions springing to mind being: could Jeff hit Perry and Augeri’s upper range, and would he remember the lyrics so early on in his tour of duty (12 days since the press release). For the most part, he fulfilled expectations on all fronts, being the masterful frontman he is, only truly visibly struggling (vocally) on “Escape” and “Be Good To Yourself” with their Steve Perry highs. He was all over the stage, very animated and very appreciative of this opportunity. Was he the perfect vocal replacement for Augeri? Journey’s songs weren’t written for his range, but he held his own, commandeered the stage, and was a pleasure to see first hand … not much more can be asked for than that.

Either due to Augeri’s absence, or as a testament to his own vocal chords, this night saw drummer Deen Castranovo take on more lead vocals than during last year’s tour. He gracefully handled the balladry side of Journey (“Who’s Crying Now,” with Soto doing accompanying back-up vocals in the shadows, “Open Arms,” and “Faithfully”). It’s a wonder that Journey even needs a stand-in on the microphone based on the continuously sharp performance of Castronovo. The gent can certainly hit the highs and would seem to be an adequate replacement (especially if he wasn’t behind a drum kit).

Soundwise the band was clear, crisp, and moderately loud (in comparison to Def Leppard’s mix). The sound really garnered points for its nice bottom end and thunderous double-bass sound captured off of Castronovo’s drum kit … very powerful sounding indeed. The light show was well done for a back-up act. Especially effective was the “psychedelic light show” projection during “Lights.”

Journey is neither known for running amok on stage nor being overly animated, particularly when they have little space to do so. That didn’t stop the band from rocking harder then ever this night, with quite a bit of sonic energy. Neal Schon was as turbo-charged as ever, ripping through extended solos on songs like “Chain Reaction” and an extended jam in “Be Good To Yourself. Hometown Chicago Boy, Jonathan Cain, played an artistic, if underappreciated, piano solo, and also lead off an instrumental, Bluesy lead-in to “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” on harmonica. Ross Valory, the man of many facial expressions, was as solid on bass as always, and Castronovo hits as hard as anyone on drums.

End to end, this was a solid 75-minute performance. It’s actually quite surprising that Journey isn’t the headlining act more often. It would be wonderful to see them afforded the accommodations they had back in their hey-day, with the impressive light show and stage set-up spent on such acts as Def Leppard. What Journey lacks in “on-stage antics” they more than make up for with pure talent and musicianship! See them once, see them often!

Set List:
Star Spangled Banner (Instrumental) * Anyway You Want It * Ask The Lonely * Stone In Love * Wheel In The Sky * Who’s Crying Now * Chain Reaction * Lights * Piano Solo * Open Arms * Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ * Escape * Dead Or Alive * Faithfully * Be Good To Yourself * Don’t Stop Believin’ * Separate Ways


There was to be no misunderstanding about which band was the headlining act on this warm, humid night. Right before Def Leppard appeared, the stage seemed to become quite a bit more “spacious” … growing larger than life with an upgraded two-story video screen back drop, colorful set pieces, drum riser, an upper deck stage, etc… When Leppard took the stage they approached from the second story level where vocalist Joe Elliot unleashed the query … “Wanna get rocked?” proceeded only by the band breaking into “Let’s Get Rocked.” It was noticeable that the sound definitely got much louder (especially Rick Allen’s bass drum sound). There was no denying that Def Leppard was back in Chicago!

The band was very animated all night long through this 85-minute performance. Elliot, Savage, Collen, and Campbell used ever inch of the stage, especially bassist Rick Savage who was often seen running from one end to the other. If Hard Rock musicians are truly “athletes,” then Leppard is definitely a team of Gold Medalists. It was nice to see a band of 20+ years expending so much physical energy for their fans, given that everyone, audience included, is much older and not necessarily as fit as they were in the 80s.

Joe’s vocals were, for the most part, spot on with him only showing strain in “Foolin’,” otherwise he sounded good throughout the remaining Def Leppard classics, especially with the set list including more than half of the Hysteria release. The crowd seemed to vibe on the newer material, e.g., “Make Love Like A Man” and “Promises,” so it was unexpected that the older classic, “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” was very well-received. “No Matter What” and “Rock On” were the only two selections played from the band’s new all covers CD (Yeah!), and these were well-received as well.

The video production was outstanding, with a nice, two-story, high-resolution screen that displayed wonderful split (often multi-split) screen live footage of the band, especially during “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak.” Archive footage of the band was shown during “Rocket,” which certainly stirred up a lot of old memories for the older fans in the crowd (thanks Def Leppard for the trip through time). Especially tasteful were the archive pictures shown during an outstanding rendition of “Photograph.” The pictures, of course, included deceased guitarist Steve Clark, but also included original guitarist Pete Willis, who was asked to leave the band in 1982 during the Pyromania recording sessions. Also nice were the green-hued lights used during “Animal” to give its performance that “savage” feel.

The night also included an unprecedented bass solo by Savage (who seemed to start the solo by being plugged into a “pig nose” amp). Other guitarist highlights included a dueling guitar instrumental break during “Rocket.” This was held on the upper stage with Collen on one end and Campbell on the other … Collen won hands down with some nice fast picking a’la his “Girl” days, while Campbell seemed restrained and stymied. Vivian Campbell was afforded an extended guitar solo during, oddly enough, the first encore, “Love Bites.” Alas, gone are Campbell’s “Metal” days as this night’s solo fell very short (musically) of his golden Dio playing ways. Whether by desire or design, Campbell continues to be under-utilized in this band … oftentimes he’s seen running around just “strumming.” Also during “Love Bites,” Phil was sporting a cool glow-in-the-dark guitar that was especially noticeable once the lights went down between encore songs.

Overall, this night’s show was a very entertaining, energetic, and well-received performance. It was evident, even after two encore songs, that the crowd wanted more. While the band couldn’t deliver any more tunes in the allotted timeslot, perhaps the fans received something even better as the last words spoken by Joe Elliot on exit was … “There will be a next time!”

Set List:
Let’s Get Rocked * Make Love Like A Man * Promises * Bringin’ On The Heartbreak * Foolin’ * Hysteria * No Matter What * Rock On * Rocket * Photograph * Armageddon It * Animal * Rock Of Ages * Love Bites * Pour Some Sugar On Me


  • 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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