Review by John Jeffrey, Photos by Diana MacDonald
This past Wednesday night, the "Soundtrack of Summer" tour (featuring Foreigner, Styx and Don Felder) rolled into the CMAC Performing Arts Center on a slightly cool, breeze-y night, which was the absolute best weather you could ask for when seeing an outdoor amphitheater show. The musical fire that each of these artists brought during their hit laden performances was more than enough to heat up the crowd. Although some may argue that Styx is 'the band' to see on this tour (as they will be doing their own headlining shows on off days from the "SOS" tour), the addition of Felder and Foreigner really make this a well rounded bill, and perhaps the best concert package on the road this summer.
The 7pm start must have seemed to early for most, as when Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and former Eagles guitarist, Don Felder, hit the stage, the CMAC was just starting to fill up. Being an Eagles fan from afar, I wasn't sure what to expect from Felder. I know since unceremoniously leaving the Eagles in 2001, he has made a couple of stabs at a solo career, as he recently released his second solo album, "Road to Forever" in 2012, but didn't really know what to expect from the former Eagles axeman in a live setting. To my surprise, in addition to playing lead guitar, Felder fronted his solo entourage (comprised of mostly unknown, but very talented young guns, the group did however feature Timothy Drury, who toured with Felder and the Eagles on the "Hell Freezes Over" tour) and sang not only the song from his current solo album ("You Don't Have Me" from the aforementioned "Road to Forever") and the title track he provided for the cult classic, "Heavy Metal" animated film, but flawlessly sang lead on the eight Eagles classics, originally sung by Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Felder sang these songs so well, if you didn't know any better, you would have thought he WAS the one who sang these songs on the records.
Felder's solo band had the best and tightest sound of the night, as with each song played, it set the tone for what was to be a great night of classic rock music. The crowd really came alive as they reached the end of their set and performed the fan favorite, "Life in the Fast Lane" and went absolute nuts when the roadies brought out Felder's double neck Gibson SG for the closer, "Hotel California." To commemorate the "SOS" tour, Felder, Foreigner and Styx recorded a new version of the song, which featured Felder, Tommy Shaw (Styx) and Kelly Hansen (Foreigner) sharing the lead vocals, which they partially recreated live as Tommy Shaw came out to sing and play guitar along side Felder and his band.
After a short break, Styx hit the stage and continued to light up the crowd with a barrage of hits, spanning their career, which dates back to 1972. 'Lighting up' seemed to be the underlying theme of their set, as keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan brought to light (during his brief solo spot) the band's reaction to some of the public ribbing that has been going on since Styx's crew tour bus caught fire in Philadelphia (just over a week ago, on July 2nd). Showing that he and the rest of Styx have a good sense of humor, after doing short Elton John-ish rendition of the Rolling Stones "You Can't Always Get Want You Want," he went into the Doors' "Light My Fire," changing the last line of the chorus to "time to set our bus on FIRE!!!"
By comparison to recent Styx shows I've seen, there seemed to be much more emphasis on Gowan this time around, where on previous tours, it seemed to be all about guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw. While in the past, you could always expect Gowan to sing the complimentary "Lady" and "Come Sail Away," not only did Gowan kill it on those songs, but he also was given the aforementioned solo spot, and came out from behind the keyboards to front the band during their first encore, "Rockin' the Paradise." Not enough good things can be said about Gowan, as his stage antics can be described as a cross between Michael Jackson and cabaret, leaving this reviewer going, "Dennis De.....who?"
Closing out the show was the British-American rock band, Foreigner. While the band has been under scrutiny as of late for performing without founder/guitarist Mick Jones, due to his recent health issues, it's clear that these musicians (hand picked by Jones) live and breath what it takes to be the band known as Foreigner in 2014. With Jones' Foreigner duties being restricted to 'part-time,' the focus of the group falls mostly upon singer Kelly Hansen, who has been in the group since 2005.
Hansen led the group (which also features former Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson, who joined the band just a year prior to Hansen) through an almost 90 minute set, which surprisingly only consisted of 10 songs. To the delight of the crowd, Mick Jones joined the band on stage after the fourth song, cranking out the chords to "Feels Like the First Time." Jones' presence onstage really seemed to crank things up a notch as he was ripping through guitar solos and also took over on lead vocals for "Starrider."
After bringing the house down with the somewhat predictable "Juke Box Hero," the band re-emerged to the stage, only to be joined by the Canandaigua Academy Choir for an encore of "I Want To Know What Love Is." Ending the show with "Hot Blooded," Foreigner wrapped up the night on a perfect note, ringing loudly,as the "Soundtrack of Summer" may prove to be THE summer tour of 2014.
Special Thanks to John Lappen
Review by John Jeffrey, Photos by Diana MacDonald