CONCERT REVIEW: Journey and Steve Miller bring San Francisco to NEPA

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First Posted: 6/17/2014

Although there are many genres of music that were influenced by San Francisco, the pop scene thrived in the city in the 1970s and ‘80s. Two of the bigger names to come out of that timeframe, the Steve Miller Band and Journey, brought their Sound of San Francisco tour to The Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton last Tuesday night for a show full of hit after hit.

After special guests Tower of Power performed, Miller and his band took the stage for an 80-minute set chock-full of Top 40 hits, including opening numbers “Jungle Love” and the classic rock staple “Take the Money and Run.” After a standard run through his No. 1 single “Abracadabra,” Miller treated the crowd to one of his bluesier numbers from the late ‘60s, “Space Cowboy.”

For someone who is an accomplished guitarist, Miller’s set didn’t find too many spots where he could showcase how much of a player he was in the late ‘60s, instead focusing on the commercial hits he is known for, such as “Living in the U.S.A.” and the chord-heavy “Serenade.” After a tight “Dance, Dance, Dance,” Miller’s band left the stage as he performed a few acoustic numbers, including “Wild Mountain Honey” and the country-laden pop standard “True Fine Love.”

Sticking with the Top 40 label, Miller and his band rounded out the rest of their set with a barrage of hits that are staples of any classic rock station, including the inevitable “The Joker” (where most of the crowd celebrated the line, “I’m a midnight toker,” a bit too early), the keyboard heavy “Swingtown,” the bluesy “Rock’n Me,” and the always enjoyable “Jet Airliner,” before encoring with one of his more technical cuts, “Fly Like an Eagle.”

Perennial hitmakers Journey took the stage at 9:30 for a 90-minute set that focused on – what else? – the hits, beginning with “Be Good to Yourself,” before enticing the crowd to sing along with one of its biggest chart-toppers “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).” For most of the set, the focus was on founding member Neal Schon (the only member who has been part of every lineup since its inception in 1973) and singer Arnel Pineda, who, after being discovered via YouTube, sounds eerily like former Journey frontman Steve Perry. With Pineda’s voice in fine form, Schon lent some flamboyancy to early cuts like “Anyway You Want It” and “Stone in Love,” which found him parading around the stage during his solos, certainly a change from his earlier days with Santana.

After a few cuts from their 2011 release, “Eclipse,” keyboardist Jonathan Cain dabbled in bits of Journey cuts that didn’t find their way into the set list. Towards the end of his solo, the crowd exploded when he broke into his signature opening of the power ballad “Open Arms,” while Pineda delivered a flawless vocal performance. After standard runs through hits like “Lights” and “Wheel in the Sky,” the band went back to its ballad days for a touching “Faithfully,” which again featured spot-on vocals by Pineda.

To end the main set, the band delivered a perfect rendition of the song countless people have tried doing in every karaoke bar in the world, the insatiable “Don’t Stop Believing.” There’s really not much to be said about the song; everyone knows it, everyone either loves it or hates it, and on Tuesday everyone was covered in confetti as it ended. For the encore, the band went back to the softer material and did a standard run through “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.”

Along with Tower of Power, the Steve Miller Band and Journey are two bands with enough Top 40 material to fill an entire night, as this tour has proved. While both bands have a deep catalogue of underappreciated material, the feel of this tour – and, for the most part, possibly the feel of what both acts are aiming for at this point in their careers – is to celebrate what they have done for themselves and the city of San Francisco. If Tuesday’s show was any indication, the people want to celebrate it as well.