Co-headliners make for great shows, but a three-for makes for an outstanding night of music. In the “old days,” groups would get together and tour, whether they played the same type of music or not. Then, most stars would have an opening act that served as to get the crowd ready. After that, opening acts were local bands who grabbed the chance for the publicity, even if the audience was getting beer and talking about how good the stars were when they were young. This year, though, there’s been a lot of acts coming together to really give the fans their money’s worth of entertainment.
This was the case when a trio of stars got together at Gexa Energy Pavilion to rock some people, roll some others and kick ass for everyone. Almost 20,000 joined me at my pre-birthday party to yell, scream and shake our moneymakers for San Francisco Fest 2016. DAVE MASON came out in the late afternoon sun to start off the mini-festival and played a few songs of his own and a few from his days in the supergroup, TRAFFIC. His voice has held up well and his guitar playing has always been his strong suit.
Introduced as a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, he came out and played “Only You Know and I Know” with a great solo. The growing crowd jumped up for “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and “We Just Disagree.” A few stories about working with some of the greats and he finished his much-too-short-set with “Feelin’ Alright” and “All Along The Watchtower.”
After a short stage change, THE DOOBIE BROTHERS walked out and started with “Jesus Is Just Alright.” It was only the first of 14 greatest hits that included “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” Eyes of Silver” and “Takin’ It to the Streets.” Everyone in the audience just accepted each other’s poor singing as we jammed to “Another Park, Another Sunday,” “Black Water” and “China Grove.” Their encore started off with “Without You,” and finished to a standing ovation with “Listen to the Music,” a classic rock staple that made the crowd sound like a choir.
Soon, the lights went out and we saw the silhouette figures of JOURNEY walk on stage. Every camera and recorder came out to see Neal Schon in black leather finger lightning fast on the fret. Vocalist Arnel Pineda came bouncing out, and continued to skip around the stage all night. The ladies immediately began swooning for “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart” and the applause kept going for “Be Good To Yourself,” “Only The Young” and a screeching guitar solo by Neal that made the guys wish we were rock stars.
Little kids were air drumming for “Stone In Love,” then the crowd went batshit crazy for the upbeat “Anyway You Want It.” Women were standing in the seats and the requisite beach balls came out to show it was a crowd favorite. A deep cut, “Line Of Fire” preceded the overhead video of San Francisco pictures for “Lights.”
Jonathan Cain, still looking like a young man delivered a piano solo that displayed his enormous talent and contributions to the band which led into “Open Arms.” Neal again showed why he is considered to be one of the top 100 guitarists of all time with a solo that fit the ballad perfectly. Arnel’s voice sounded perfect as Ross Valory’s bass complemented the song so very well.
The hits kept coming with “Who’s Crying Now” and “Escape.” Both songs had a precision that only a band of this many years can carry. They were celebrating the 35th year of the release of the Escape album, and the sold-out crowd roared in approval. As he had all night, Steve “Machine Gun” Smith hit the drum heads hard and thrilled everyone when he got his chance to solo. He’s so much fun to watch as his peripheral vision lets him hit the side cymbals without so much as a glance in that direction.He’s such an underrated drummer and such an asset to the band.
Neal again shined, literally as well as figuratively with all the bling he was wearing, on “Dead or Alive.” The pure rock and roll song gives testament to their artistic abilities to play all facets of the rock genre. Arnel was still skipping and bouncing and gave it his all for “Wheel In the Sky,” with its extended jam.
Jonathan then told the story of paying the price for the road life they live as they played “Faithfully.” They finished the set with the wildly popular “Don’t Stop Believin’” as the cameras reappeared.
Confetti blew out and covered the fans during the extended jam and everyone loved it.The sing-along continued until they closed the song and left the stage.
The decibel level of chants for an encore didn’t diminish one bit until they came back out and played “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin.’” The arm waving and the “Na Na Na’s” went on until they had to leave. Almost everyone stayed for the encore and was willing to sit in traffic after the show, a true testament to the staying power of a band. The entire night was chock full of great music.
DAVE MASON brought a Hall of Fame credibility and was a highlight of the show. THE DOOBIE BROTHERS have so many hits that it’s impossible not to have a singing jam session. They have to leave out many top 40 hits just to fit into the time constraints. JOURNEY has touched so many people in so many different ways. Whether it’s the love songs or the hard-charging rock and roll, they have the ability to pull it off. Arnel sings with such passion and enjoyment and that keeps fans flocking to their shows all these years later. They still know how to put together a show that brings passion, joy and a sense of closeness between them and the the fans, and that’s important.
LIVE IMAGES: GUZPIX
LIVE WORDS: DAVID SIMERS