Tower of Power, Steve Miller Band & Journey Blow the Audience Away at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
This past Wednesday I went to one of the coolest concerts I have ever been to. Literally, it was a cool 61 degrees at the First Midwest Bank Center when Tower of Power took the stage right on time at 6:45. They played only 45 minutes which is rare for those guys. Even with so many hits in their repertoire they were able to squeeze a good number of them in. TOP is never disappointing….NEVER, and Wed. evening was no different. This is the first time I was able to hear their new singer Ray Greene. Greene is another power house, soulful singer that fits well in front of one of the greatest bands on the planet. One of the trumpet players, Sal Cracchiola was absent to be his wife while she recovers in ICU from a skating accident. Also missing was legendary bassist Rocco Prestia. We send our prayers and thoughts to both of them and their families. I always tell young musicians if you can only make one concert this year make it a TOP concert. They mesh so many different styles into one living musical breath that only hearing them live can explain.
Also right on time the Steve Miller Band came out taking no prisoners. His musical line up of musicians is also filled with a virtual who’s who in rock music history. As he played his hits for the next ninety minutes I kept thinking “I forgot about that song…and that song…and that one. Miller had twenty eight albums had to choose his play list from dating back to 1967. Besides being impressed with his vocals I was equally impressed with his guitar playing. He is for sure no slouch when it comes to playing. One of the biggest impressions the SM band made on me was that were all just having some good, old fashioned fun. They played with excitement and energy like it was their first time to play in front of a big crowd….and they loved every minute of it. At one point in his Miller’s set, Neal Schon came out and played a song with the boys like he belonged with the band. When guys like this that are so naturally talented play for so many years they can only sound remarkable and they did. They ended their set with Fly like an eagle.
Journey finished the night and all I think of to say is that they were so HIGH. Huh? Gotcha. High energy, high performance, high tech, and high voices. They had some HIGH tech jumbo screens that screamed special effects and close ups of the solos that were blazing through the hefty sound system. Now we know that Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, and Ross Valory are no longer spring chickens..whatever that means.
They played with such HIGH energy for over ninety minutes without a break. Cain showed his diverse musical greatness on keyboards when he toyed with the keys by himself for about ten minutes. A couple songs later Schon had his ten minute solo time in the spotlight. I am sure that other people besides me were aware that this night was the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks on our country. Schon broke into his Hendrix like version of the Star Spangled Banner. The crowd exploded in cheers as the screens behind Schon showed Old Glory as he finished the song. They remembered, we remembered, and no one had to say anything. I thought it was a great tribute. The only time I heard louder cheers was at a Blackhawks game. Next thing you know lead singer Arnel Pineda comes out wearing a Blackhawks T shirt. The night was complete for me. This guy’s comparative youth was nothing but HIGH energy as he hit ALL the Steve Perry HIGH soprano notes with ease while he is running around. On bass and backing vocals is Ross Vallery. As an old school bass player all I can say is that I get this guy. No ten minute solos, no running all over the place, no high vocals. Just straight up, solid bottom, pocket playing that meshed so well with drummer Deen Castronovo. Without these guys there is no foundation for Journey. With Castronovo on drums all I can say is “wow”. This guy has to be hands down one of the best rock drummers on the planet, period. Playing like that is not enough though, he sang a tune as HIGH as Perry and Pineda. He also has a drumming video titled “HIGH performance drumming” Now that’s a surprise. While the rest of the band was wearing long sleeve shirts to stay warm, Castronovo was wearing cut off sleeves and probably lost five pounds with his energetic playing.
Start to finish the whole concert went a bit over four hours. Four hours of the some of the best musicians and songs in the world. We all left a little chilly but also on a very HIGH note.
Reviewed by Paul “Mr U” Uhrina WVLP radio