Arena rock is still alive and well in 2018 on Saturday night in Tampa, Florida! Def Leppard and Journey came to Tampa armed with their time machine of rock hits. It took me back to my 20 something self and the advent of MTV! Videos in heavy rotation of the early 80’s British explosion with Joe Elliot and Co. blowing into America back in 1983. San Francisco’s Journey blaring from car radios in the late 70s and 80s. Journey videos became part of the MTV landscape with their distinct sound. This show was completely SOLD OUT to the rafters of the Amalie Arena. There was a sea of Leppard and Journey t-shirts everywhere you looked around.
This US tour is a double bill with no opening act. The bands have been switching back and forth on opening and closing status. In Tampa, Def Leppard took the stage first opening with “Rocket”! Perfect as the band took off into their setlist of pure rock. A quintessential rock show, Def Leppard delivers with great lighting, graphics and what everybody’s there for, the music! Front man Joe Elliott does a great job of delivering the rock and roll message. Leppard only does one cover on this setlist and it is the classic David Essex 1973 tune, “Rock On” which DL recorded in 2006. Their “power ballad” from 1987 “Love Bites” is a showstopper with its haunting melody and incredible lighting that had the entire arena singing along with Mr. Eliott. An acoustic version of “2 Steps Behind” brought the entire band to the end of the catwalk including drummer Rick Allen on maracas. Guitarist Phil Collen is still shirtless at age 60 and amazingly still looks good to pull it off!
Coming to the end of their set that started with “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, which had everybody on their feet that wasn’t already on their feet. The encore of “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” was a great ending that no one wanted! The band seemed truly amazed by the intensity of the Tampa crowd for Def Leppard! Leppard has played the Tampa area over a dozen times starting in 1981 at the old Curtis Hixon Hall and no doubt will be coming back! As Joe Eliott says, “Don’t write a hit record if you aren’t going to sing it”!
Closing the show, the legendary Journey opens with their huge hit “Separate Ways”! A set list of 19 hits in a catalog mainly written by Neil Schon and Steve Perry, takes you on a trip down a musical memory lane that is sweet. Arnel Pineda in vocals does a fine job with Perry’s tunes. His rags to riches story is uplifting and he clearly loves singing these songs. Original members guitarist Neil Schon, drummer Steve Smith, keyboardist Jonathan Cain and bassist Ross Valory bring it with individual solo performances as well as incredible songs like “Lights”, “Anyway you want it”, “Faithfully” and a personal favorite, “Stone in Love”! Arnel moves with a quickness, interacts with the audience and shows pride in his fellow band members with his expressions of awe at Neil Schon’s guitar prowess.
The 3 ½ hour night of music comes to a close with the phenomenal worldwide hit of human faith in “Don’t Stop Believin”, complete with streamers & confetti with the entire Amalie Arena singing the anthem of arena rock that has become a national anthem of sorts at ball games and all kinds of events! Partly in thanks to famously using it on the series finale of “The Sopranos” as if it wasn’t famous enough! The band from the “city by the bay”, Journey is one of our best American bands regardless of the decade, because great music is timeless!
Photos by Vicky Sullivan / Rock the Lens Photography