(featuring Journey, Styx and REO Speedwagon)

July 26, 2003
The Arena At Gwinnett - Duluth, GA


REO Speedwagon:

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Yeah, go ahead and make your dinosaur jokes. The 15 musicians in these bands don’t care and neither do the 10,000 or so “real” people that paid their hard earned money to see this time-tripping show. Honestly, I expected these guys to limp through their hits like a bad night on VH-1 Classic, but that’s not the way it went down.

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From the first notes of REO Speedwagon’s “Ridin’ The Storm Out,” it was clear that these guys were on a mission to prove their mettle. Sure, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” was just as schmaltzy as you remember it, but songs like “Keep On Loving You” and “Time For Me To Fly” had teeth that I don’t remember from the original versions. That’s not even to mention the surprising power of “Don’t Let Him Go” and “Keep Pushin’.”

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The band all looked remarkably fit and strong as they delved into a catalog of radio staples on a streamlined, hi-tech stage dwarfed by a huge video screen that beamed the proceedings to the back of the packed house. Guitarist Dave Amato took ex-member Gary Richrath’s leads to new levels as front man Kevin Cronin hit every note and nuance. Bassist Bruce Hall even took over the vocal mic for a particularly potent version of “Back On The Road Again” that actually rivaled the energy level of any hot new buzz band.

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You just had to see and hear the crowd singing along with “Take It On The Run” to get it. Sneer if you want. REO actually rocked!

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REO Speedwagon Set List (Duluth, GA 7-26-03):

1. Ridin' The Storm Out
2. Keep Pushin'
3. Can't Fight This Feeling
4. Don't Let Him Go
5. Keep On Lovin' You
6. In Your Letter
7. Take It On The Run
8. In My Dreams
9. Time For Me To Fly
10. Back On The Road Again
11. Roll With The Changes
12. 157 Riverside Avenue



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Of the three bands tonight, Styx was the only one that didn’t rely predominantly on their classics. They left out more big hits than they played, but with a significantly different line-up than the glory days, it all made sense in the grand scheme. Speaking of “grand,” the band came alive with “The Grand Illusion” after phoning in the opener “Too Much Time On My Hands.”

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Keyboardist-vocalist Lawrence Gowan has mastered the voice and feel of Dennis DeYoung and added a healthy side of ham to the mix. Twisting around a rotating keyboard, making silly faces and generally having a good time, Gowan and other non-original frontline member/bassist Glenn Burtnick ran the stage in circles, posed and did every rock face in the book. Styx golden boy Tommy Shaw was a little more restrained than the last few shows I’ve seen, but perhaps it was a good thing.

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Shaw's “Waiting For Our Time” was the only new song of the night that would’ve been a biggie back in the times of yore. One of the other fresh cuts, “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye” found Glenn Burtnick roaming the aisles of the arena as the spotlight followed. The surprise of their set was an appearance by founding member/bassist Chuck Panozzo.

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For roughly half of the set, Chuck, who left the band due to health concerns, stood back to back with other founder James “JY” Young for songs like “Foolin’ Yourself,” “Miss America” and, of course, “Come Sail Away” which found every voice singing “to carry on.” Arms lifted lighters and lit up cell phones in the air. It was all obvious, but right. Styx closed out their time with a fiery version of “Renegade” that showed off the chops of drummer Todd Sucherman and amply displayed how powerful Styx can still be.

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Styx Set List (Duluth, GA 7-26-03):

1. Too Much Time On My Hands
2. The Grand Illusion
3. Waiting For Our Time
4. Lady
5. Blue Collar Man
6. Fields Of The Brave
7. Kiss Your Ass Goodbye
8. Foolin' Yourself
9. Miss America
10. Come Sail Away
11. Renegade



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I was expecting Journey to be the big disappointment of the night, but I was wrong again. From the start of “Separate Ways,” Journey 2003 showed off more muscle than the Steve Perry fronted version dreamed of having (at least by the end). There was no lame retread of “I’ll Be Alright Without You” or any of the other faux-soul misfires that Perry had brought in to tame the once mighty rock band. Tonight, it was all about the rock. Perry clone Steve Augeri sounded the same as the other Steve, only missing a couple of the notes. He and the band seemed at home dishing out deep, monster rockers like the riff-laden “Dead Or Alive” and the progressive, metallic edged “Escape.” They hit on most of what you’d expect. “Lights,” “Wheel In The Sky” and even “Ask The Lonely” went down nicely. Sure, they had to play “Open Arms” and an iffy “Be Good To Yourself,” but a fun take of “Any Way You Want It” more than made up for it.

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With Perry gone, the star of Journey is clearly guitarist Neil Schon. The axe-man is without a doubt a master of his instrument. A song like “Don’t Stop Believin’” might have been lost without the stinging contributions from the virtuoso, but he really cut loose on stompers like “Chain Reaction” and the previously mentioned “Dead Or Alive.”

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Personally, I would have rather the show ended with the big “na, na, na” sing-a-long at the end of “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’” (there’s just something so American about that moment), but judging by all of the couples swaying and embracing to “Faithfully,” I was clearly in the minority. Bottom line, all of these bands were made successful and later maligned because of the sugary sweet power ballads that were shoved down our throat a generation ago. The truth of the matter is that before the heavily hair-sprayed fame, they were all great rock ‘n’ roll bands, and after they’ve come back down from their halcyon head-rushed highs, that’s where they’ve all returned. How many of the biggest bands of 2003 will be able to go out in ’23 and fill and arena. I wonder.

Chris McKay /

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Journey Set List (Duluth, GA 7-26-03):

1. Separate Ways
2. Stone In Love
3. Wheel In The Sky
4. Star Spangled Banner
5. Chain Reaction
6. Lights
7. Open Arms
8. Precious Time
9. Ask The Lonely
10. Dead Or Alive
11. Don't Stop Believin'
12. Escape
13. Be Good To Yourself
14. Any Way You Want It
15. Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'
16. Faithfully