Just which act highlights “The Soundtrack of Summer” tour is open for debate.
Rather than have that debate, Foreigner and Styx have played for the same amount of time and simply alternated shows in the prime position of last performers of the night throughout the tour.
And, as Don Felder made clear on July 4 at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain, the opening act could make its own case.
Felder, the former lead guitarist of the Eagles, formed his own band that played primarily Eagles hits while providing an impressive start to more than three hours of classic rock.
Those that made up “The Soundtrack of Summer” tour showed they shared the spotlight well. In fact, some of the evening’s high points were when they shared the stage.
Tommy Shaw and Todd Sucherman came out to help Felder and his bandmates through their rendition of the monster hit “Hotel California” to close out the first portion of the show. Midway through the Styx set, Felder joined the band for a rousing version of “Blue Collar Man.”
Discount prices in the final days led to most of the venue’s seating area being filled by the night of the show, which Felder started promptly at 7 p.m. with Eagles hits “Already Gone” and “One of These Nights.”
Felder’s own recent hit on classic rock radio “You Don’t Have Me” was followed by a return to Eagles songs with “Victim of Love.”
Throughout the 50-minutes on stage, Felder handled many of the vocal roles that Glenn Frey and Don Henley had filled for the Eagles. He had help from his band, particularly in the harmonies that featured all five to open and close “Seven Bridges Road” and what Felder called the “inhumanely high notes” hit by former Kenny Loggins bassist Shem von Schroeck.
Felder’s movie soundtrack song “Heavy Metal” was followed by “Witchy Woman,” and the crowd was up clapping and singing for “Heartache Tonight.”
Throughout the show, Felder had switched guitars for every song, including going acoustic for “Seven Bridges Road.” When he pulled out the trademark double-neck version, it was a signal to Eagles fans that it was time to close out the opening act with “Hotel California.”
The songs that formed hit singles and albums in the 1970s and early 1980s continued after just a 15-minute break, with Styx opening to one of its title tracks, “Grand Illusion.”
Shaw, who joined the Chicago-based band in 1975 right before it became successful nationally, and James “J.Y. Young,” whose roots go back to 1970 before even its first album, remain prominent with Styx.
Shaw’s vocals were highlighted early in “Too Much Time on My Hands” and “Fooling Yourself,” singles that he also wrote.
Lawrence Gowan, who took over for Dennis DeYoung, the band’s keyboardist and most recognized vocalist during the glory years, replaced DeYoung in both those capacities to play Styx’s first hit, “Lady.”
The nation’s birthday was mentioned more than once during the holiday night show, including during the band’s patriotic song “Suite Madame Blue” with choruses of “America” echoing while the active video screen that Styx used throughout the performance flashed photos of the Statue of Liberty.
At the urging of Shaw, cell phone light apps replaced lighters for many of the fans during “Light Up.”
“Superstars” slowed the pace before Felter, Young, and Show cranked it up with “Blue Collar Man.”
Gowan had the stage to himself, sitting at his keyboard, to explain the fires that burnt unoccupied Styx and Foreigner tour buses the day before in Philadelphia, only briefly causing concern over the bands and the status of the tour.
The only casualties were 50 black T-shirts, according to Gowan, who playfully altered the lyrics of The Doors staple “Light My Fire” to, “Someone set my bus on fire.”
After closing his solo medley with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Gowan was rejoined by the rest of Styx at its best as it morphed from lyrics to the instrumental portion of the power ballad “Come Sail Away.”
The intensity present at the end of “Come Sail Away” was evident again in the encore, a combination of “Rockin’ the Paradise” and “Renegade,” to complete a well-received, 70-minute effort.
Foreigner took the stage 25 minutes later. The video screens and the spinning keyboard on which Gowan entertained – and occasionally distracted – were gone.
There were less theatrics, but no lack of energy, in a strong opening 1-2 punch of “Double Vision” and “Head Games.”
“Cold as Ice” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You” were next before the introduction of Mick Jones.
Jones, a 2013 Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, is the lead guitarist of Foreigner as well as its founder and producer.
Although slowed in recent years by illness, Jones joined Foreigner for the rest of the show, beginning with “Feels Like the First Time.”
On what lead vocalist Kelly Hanson aptly described as “a beautiful night for music,” Foreigner hit its peak with “Juke Box Hero” and an extended Jones guitar solo into “Urgent,” which then featured Tom Gimbel’s exhausting work on saxophone.
Whereas Gowan has done an admirable job taking over for DeYoung, Hanson was remarkable in maintaining the vocal sounds of Foreigner and its former lead signer Lou Gramm.
After Jones led the band through “Starrider” from its first album, it was back to Gowan for the two-song encore to close the night.
The Wyoming County Chorale joined the band for support on “I Want to Know What Love Is” before “Hot Blooded” closed the entertaining show on a cool summer night on the mountain.