Journey, Steve Miller Band, & Tower of Power rock Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, NY 6-16-14

Journey, Steve Miller Band, & Tower of Power rock Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, NY 6-16-14

Summer is a time to kick back, relax, and rock-n-roll.  Bringing on the good vibrations of music from May through July across America are classic rock acts Journey, Steve Miller Band, and Tower Of Power.  The three bands from the San Francisco Bay area helped define the scene during the 1970’s are now teaming up for their first time ever to tour together in 2014.  Already a month into the summer long excursion, the tour made the trip out to Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY Monday June 16th to rock a large crowd.

Beginning the show, from the other side of the Bay Bridge in Oakland, CA, was Tower of Power.  Mixing soul, funk, jazz, r&b, and rock together for almost five decades now, the band continue to tour annually to fans delight.  With a series of members gracing the line-up over the years, 2014’s edition of Tower of Power consists of Emilio Castillo, Stephen ‘Doc’ Kupka, Francis ‘Rocco’ Prestia, David Garibaldi, Roger Smith, Sal Cracchiolo, Adolfo Acosta, Ray Greene, Tom Politzer, and Jerry Cortez.  Taking the stage with the sun glaring bright over top, the band invited guests to their seats with “We Came to Play”.  With an electrifying mix of sound from the horns to bluesy guitar and funky bass, each song to follow was high energy and full of fun.  Their colorful sound mixed perfectly with the setting and it was clear this band love to jam together.  Highlights included memorable hits “Soul Vaccination”, “So Very Hard to Go”, and closer “What Is Hip?”.  Fans which may have never had a chance to go out and see Tower of Power perform live can pick up a copy of their two disc set Hipper Than Hip from a 1974 live performance now available for purchase.

Next up were San Francisco, CA rock legends The Steve Miller Band.  Put together back in 1967 by Steve Miller, the band went on to massive success during the 1970’s with a series of mainstream radio hits still spun regularly today.  Continuing to grace audiences with their bluesy rock, the band has made Jones Beach a regular landing spot, making it a staple summer event for Long Island.  Walking out to the stage casually in blue jeans and a white jacket, Miller and his band took off into a set of songs from the golden age of the band including openers “Jungle Love” and “Take The Money and Run”.   Full of life, Miller sang strongly, playing on with hits “Abracadabra” and “Space Cowboy”.  Fans excited by the energetic mix of music and Miller’s upbeat persona on stage stood most of the set dancing along.  Other tracks such as “Serenade” and “The Stake” kept the vibe going and offered the audience songs they have grown to love over the years.  The entire band mixed well, bringing the songs to life until the very last note.

Keeping the stage show fresh, Miller performed a few tracks acoustically with “Wild Mountain Honey”, “Gangster of Love”, and “True Fine Love”.  More of a transition for the extensive set, the acoustic portion of the show was relaxing and lost no momentum as the band kicked right back into the rock with mega hit “The Joker”.  With everyone on their feet, the excitement level was at peak heights through the song with singing and grooving in the aisles.  That feel good party emotion remained consistent through other Miller classics such as “Swingtown”, “Rock’n Me”, and “Jet Airliner”.  Cheering loudly for more, Miller saved the best for last with an encore of “Fly Like an Eagle”.   From all the hits to some great deep cuts, The Steve Miller Band sounded better than ever and fans cannot wait to see them back at Jones Beach again soon.

With the breeze blowing over the theater and the night fully set in, it was time for power rock legends Journey.  Born in 1973, Journey’s success would career over into the following decade with eighteen Top 40 hits and seven consecutive platinum selling albums.  With the combination of hard rock guitars, soaring vocals, and memorable lyrics, Journey is perhaps one of the most beloved bands in the modern times.  Sustaining time away from the stage and a series of vocalist changes, the band still stands strong in 2014 with a line-up of founding members Neal Schon (lead guitar, vocals) and Ross Valory (bass, vocals), along with Jonathan Cain (keyboards, guitar), Deen Castronovo (drums, percussion), and newest edition Arnel Pineda (lead vocals).  Returning to Jones Beach for the first time since 2012, fans packed the theater in anticipation to rock with the band once again.

Opening up with the 1986 track “Be Good To Yourself”, the up-tempo flair Journey is known for lifted off in dramatic style.  Complemented by a bright backdrop of a massive LED screen flashing colors and images, the stage show’s enormity matched the band as they went into “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”.  Like a ball of energy, Pineda is a frontman through and through as he jumped all over the stage without skipping a beat on vocals.  For some fans the absence of adored vocalist Steve Perry is a touchy conversation, but Pineda’s sheer emotion, passion, and singing range is enough to wow any spectator.  Moving right along, the band followed with “Any Way You Want It” and “Only The Young”.  This slew of favorites had fans interacting consistently and added to the excitement of the show.

With Independence Day a month away, the next part of the show was not only fitting but jaw dropping to witness when Schon broke out “The Star-Spangle Banner” on guitar.  Allowing each note to bleed out in dramatic fashion, Schron played with passion that had the hairs on the necks of fans standing up.  This homage to America and guitar clinic shows exactly why Schon is a guitarist that stands along with some of the best in rock history.  Directly following was a mix of 80’s treasures “Stone in Love”, “Mother, Father”, before going into newer song “She’s A Mystery”.  Off the band’s 2011 album Eclipse, the song showed the true strengths of vocalist Pineda as he sang in inspiring fashion.    This was a great transition into the mellow slow dance song “Lights” followed by a haunting piano solo by Cain.  With careful attention to his key-work, Cain’s fingers danced upon the piano like a classic composer showing his immense talents.  Providing a flawless segue into one of Journey’s most recognized tunes “Open Arms”, the cheers came in a wave as Pineda sent chills down the spines of fans.  Still a fresh and beautiful love ballad all these years later, if one closed their eyes they would think they were listening to the record.

Picking up the pace, back into harder rock, the band went into another newer song by the name of “Ritual” followed by flashes from the past in “La Do Da” and “Anytime”.  With so much ground already covered, the band showed no signs of fatigue as they blasted on and Schon ripped through a guitar solo.  These instrumental breaks were just what the show needed to break up the songs as Journey did so perfectly before the final stretch of hits including “Wheel in the Sky”, “Faithfully”, and “Don’t Stop Believin'”.  Leaving the stage momentarily, Journey returned for one last song performing their first Top 20 hit “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'”.

Journey still rock as hard as any band actively performing today; and with abundant energy, sensational musicianship, and one heck of an intense frontman, this band is prime to tour well into the future.  Their set was quick and well put together to allow no moments of disinterest in the crowd, keeping everyone on their feet.  Whether it is younger or older generations, this show should be on everyone’s list of things to do in the summer of 2014.

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Frank Malerba
frank@crypticrock.com
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