Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review of Tower of Power, Steve Miller Band and Journey at the Hollywood Bowl


On May 16 there was a triple bill at the Hollywood Bowl that I just could not miss -- all bands that started in San Francisco, and none of which I had seen live before: Tower of Power, the Steve Miller Band and Journey. How could I possibly resist?

The Hollywood Bowl is Los Angeles at its finest, and it is usually a good place to see a show. The acoustics are good, and since it is in an urban area they have to keep the volume in check. Unfortunately the usual laid-back vibe was absent, which was unfortunate as this is usually my favorite Southern California outdoor concert venue. The audience included a heavy mix of drunken middle-aged frat boys who were pretty much out of control for the entire evening. What a drag! On the plus side, I did not have to park at the Bowl so I saved $23 for parking, and my car was not held hostage in the stacked lots.

This is a lot of bands so the show had an early start, and it kicked off right on time at 6:30 with Tower of Power. This rhythm and blues extravaganza has been around for 46 years, and very few of the 10 guys on stage were original members, but it did not matter much. They have the tightest horns around, and it was a shame that the terrible audience did not get into it more as they cruised through old favorites, including my favorite “Soul Vaccination.”

After a quick stage reset, the Steve Miller Band came onstage around 7:30, and did an amazing 75-minute set, which was kicked off by “Jungle Love.” They did not miss a hit, going through “Gangster of Love,” “Living in the USA,” “Space Cowboy,” “Swingtown,” ”Abracadabra,” “Jet Airliner,” and finishing up with ”Fly Like an Eagle.” They performed as a 5-piece, with some outstanding key work from Joseph Wooten, plus background vocals and dance stylings from the inimitable Sonny Charles.

Miller was in good form for the show, and it was easy to forget that he is 70. His guitar work was tight and his vocals are still good, and he even hit the harmonica a few times. It is interesting to note that he appears to have never adopted wireless for his guitars, so the guitar change after each song was a bit of a dance with his tech to make sure that the cables did not get tangled.

One gripe that was true for both the Steve Miller and Journey parts of the evening was that the sound was not very good. Is was muddy, and combining that with the bad crowd did not make for an enjoyable evening.

Journey took the final hour and a half of the evening, and the first question everybody asks me is “how was the new guy?” In a nutshell, Arnel Pineda is really damned good, certainly better than anything the Steve Perry could do today, and he can actually sing in tune. By the way, he is not the new guy anymore, having joined the band almost seven years ago.

The band started their set with “Be Good to Yourself,” which is one of their weaker hits, but they pulled it off anyway. Pineda took advantage of the fact that he is twenty years younger than Perry and was energetic throughout the night, and was quite entertaining to watch. Founding member and guitarist Neal Schon still has his chops, and quickly settled into a steady groove. Later on Neal cranked out “The Star Spangled Banner” which still puzzles me a bit as to how it was supposed to fit into the show.

Journey did not miss any hits, with Arnel taking the lead on crowd favorites that included “Any Way You Want It,” “Faithfully,” “Open Arms,” “Wheel in the Sky” and “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).” I was less impressed with Jonathan Cain taking the vocals on “Anytime” and Deen Castronovo’s version of “Mother, Father.” They finished the main set up with “Don’t Stop Believin’” and thrilled the audience with “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” for the encore.

It should be noted that there were no signs of discord on stage, in light of the rumors that Pineda has been recently saying that he thought that Steve Perry should retake his rightful place in the band. Stay tuned.

With better sound and a reasonable crowd this would have been a great show. This was one of their first stops on this tour so there will be plenty of chances to catch the threesome this summer, including a trip back to LA at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on August 2nd. It might be worth your time to check them out...


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