Might As Well Be Listening To Journey
As you already know this blog is dedicated almost exclusively to discussing Midian Ranch and the various strange things that go on here. However, it’s almost impossible to live in Nevada and never discuss the Oldies Circuit. That would be like living in Hawaii and never talking about the beach. It’s everywhere in this state: Las Vegas, Reno, Stateline, Laughlin. Heck, even tiny Wendover is part of the Circuit. If you’re a washed up, previously famous, or simply old rock star then odds are good that you’ll end up playing one of these places sooner or later.
Tina and I are now old enough that the bands we once loved as teenagers are starting to hit the Oldies Circuit. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about that, but it does give me a chance to see some acts for the last time that I was certain I’d never see again. (Hell, I’m not certain that some of them should ever have been seen in the first place!) Tina in particular has been enjoying the cavalcade of 80’s hair-metal bands parading through the Silver State. It was with great excitement that she bought tickets to see Cheap Trick, Heart, and that titan of 14-year-old-girl-rock, Journey. So we packed the dogs into the SUV and drove down to Stateline.
Now I’m going to gripe like an old, cheap, Jack Benny kind of guy. This turned out to be a surprisingly expensive proposition. With gas at $4.35 in Nevada it cost over $160.00 to go roundtrip between Lake Tahoe and Gerlach. The tickets themselves were 70 bucks for good seats. Not unreasonable, actually, but we bought three of them - only to have the third person bail out at the last minuet. Nobody else in Gerlach wanted to go, either, so add another 210 smackers onto that with 70 of them wasted. The hotel (which was much closer to one star than five) cost $180.00 for the night. Then there’s food, booze, and so forth. Add on another hundred.
So, yeah, in the early 21st century it costs almost $700 for two people to see Journey. In 1986 we would have spent $40 on the tickets, $40 on gas, $12 for a case of Black Label, and slept in the back of my Volkswagen Fox! The Walters Family West – accredited and acknowledged masters of the ultra cheap vacation – got waxed pretty thoroughly this time. But what the hell: you only live once. Onto the bands.
Cheap Trick shouldn’t have been – and obviously didn’t want to be – on stage. I have no idea what motivated them to go on tour. Maybe the drummer’s third marriage didn’t work out and he couldn’t make his alimony payments. Maybe the base player’s restaurant in St. Luis was failing. Whatever the reason, the band famous for recording “She’s Tight” just wasn’t. Cheap Trick sounded like they hadn’t had a band practice since they released At Budokan back in 1979. To try and make up for it they used a few gimmicks that were kind of entertaining. Guitarist Rick Nielsen, he of the bald-head-black-suit-and-bowtie fame, changed axes at least once and sometimes as many as three times each song, producing a dizzying assortment of colorful and unlikely-looking instruments. Too bad he couldn’t seem to play them.
Didn’t help that he’s pushing 350-pounds either.
Famous for his blond mane, lead singer Robin Zander wore a cowboy hat throughout much of the show, strongly implying that he’d gone from goldilocks to baldilocks at some point in the last decade. Now, Zander has got to be pushing 50 at this point, so no big deal there. All of us guys are headed in the same direction. It’s only a matter of when you get there. But, right before the end of their set, he dramatically removed his chapeau to reveal an impressive cascade of flowing toe-headed hair. Hurrah! Robin Zander is forever young.
It was a good shtick. Too bad they sucked.
Heart was on the opposite of the suck-o-meter from Cheap Trick. The Wilson sisters sounded like they hadn’t done anything but practice since they released Little Queen in 1977. They were awesome. Looked terrific too. Obviously their version of the rock-n-roll lifestyle involves a lot of not drinking, not doing drugs, and probably spending some quality time with a personal trainer as well. Nancy Wilson in particular looked good. She felt no particular need to switch guitars four dozen times, either. She just put one shapely leg up on a Marshal speaker and beat on her axe for an hour like it was what the Lord put her on Earth to do. And her sister’s vocal skills have improved dramatically as well. I would guess that Ann Wilson is twice as good as she was at the height of their fame back in the 80s. Maybe even better.
Heart also seemed to “get” the Oldies Circuit in a way that neither Cheap Trick nor Journey did. Nobody going to an oldies show wants to hear new songs. (Journey!) They want to hear songs they already know played skillfully. (Cheap Trick!) Heart banged out their 70’s and 80’s hits (and there were a lot of them) with genuine expertise and feeling. They also played two covers: Going To California by Led Zeppelin and Love, Rain On Me by The Who. The crowd (rather predictably) knew both of these songs quite well, and responded enthusiastically to them.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Wilson sisters should probably be considered Masters of Metal, dwelling eternally alongside the likes of such icons as Tony Iommi, Lemmy Kilmister, and Rob Halford. It’s a traditionally entirely male pantheon, so it seems only fair to me that at least a couple of women should be admitted into metal Valhalla. But I digress.
Journey was the main act of the evening, the one that thousands of 40 something’s in frayed and stretched Ratt t-shirts had traveled all the way to Stateline to see. Ah, the sweet mullet and malt beer memories of youth! Now tragically gone, of course, destined only to be recaptured for brief moments on Nevada’s Oldies Circuit. OK, OK – I admit it. Journey isn’t really my thing. Too smooth and polished by far (and they were). But here’s the funny part. I knew that Journey’s original lead singer Steve Perry was long gone, replaced by a youngster of some sort. Which isn’t a new thing. I’d seen the ugly phenomenon of young Hessian vocalist fronting creaking trolls of metal before. Judas Priest. Iron Maiden. Black Sabbath. And now again, though it pains me to even mention Journey alongside such august personages. And this kid was extraordinary too. He sounded more like Steve Perry than any three normal Steve Perry’s ever could hope to sound. He rocker kicked through the air in tight pants like a flying tiger, long hair flowing behind him, working the crowd with incredible enthusiasm and generally behaving as though we were all trapped in some sort of 80’s time warp just waiting for our jeans to become stonewashed. Only one thing was off.
Arnel Pineda is a five-foot tall Japanese guy.
All right, he’s not actually Japanese. He’s from the Philippines. But you know what I mean. I just couldn’t get over the feeling that I was watching some kid having a really, really good Karaoke night at the Japantown bowling alley. Come to think of it, I wish that I did have a time machine; because I would take little Arnel back to the wonderful, politically incorrect era that he was meant to grow into thin-whiskered manhood in. He would have been big in the 80s. Huge! Well, bigger than Dio, anyhow. We could have done an entirely Japanese themed metal act. Yeah, I know he’s from the Philippines, but 80s metal heads didn’t know where that country was. Or that it was. Or how to spell it. He’s Asian, so close enough! I’d have him fighting mechanical Godzillas with pyrotechnic spewing guitars, leaping through burning rising sun flags, waving flaming samurai swords around the stage, and the whole bit. An undead Samurai “Eddy” mascot. Albums called things like “Tora, Torment” and “Imperial Bombshell.”
#Sigh# How glorious it would have been. Maybe we could even make enough money to be able to afford to see Journey in the early 21st century.
(Note: I just found out that Journey frontman Arnel Pineda is actually 40. He's simply youthful and athletic enough to be 20! Not fair! Damn you Pineda!)