In a week that has mostly been rainy in the Midwest, the day of the Journey/Doobie Brothers concert was when the sun chose to come out, which has to be a sign of things to come. The tour, known as San Francisco Fest 2016, featured two bands that had their beginnings in the 70’s, and a solo artist that have been around since the late 60’s, and all three acts showed that there is still life left.
The opening act, Dave Mason, has been mostly a solo artist who gained some fame as a member of Traffic and work with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, and even a song with Michael Jackson. For the tour, Mason (guitar) was joined by Alvino Bennett (drums), Tony Patler (keyboards), and Johnne Sambataro (guitar).
The Dave Mason set was about five songs, and featured the Traffic hit “Feelin’ Alright” and “Along the Watchtower,” the latter being a nod to Mason’s work with Jimi Hendrix on the Electric Ladyland album, with a special appearance from John McFee of the Doobie Brothers. While the set got off to a fairly slow start, Mason and company picked up momentum, and while only the heartiest of Mason fans made up a large portion of the applause, it was clear Mason’s band did their job and got the crowd warmed up.
The Doobie Brothers were up next, and having been around since 1970 and enduring numerous lineup changes and even a five year hiatus, they have seen and been through a lot. The original members Tom Johnston (guitar, vocals, harmonica, keyboards) and Patrick Simmons (guitar, banjo, flute, vocals) are joined by McFee (guitar, harmonica, pedal steel, Dobro, violin, vocals), John Cowan (bass, vocals), Bill Payne (keyboards), Marc Russo (saxophone), and two drummers in Ed Toth and Tony Pia.
From the opening song “Jesus is Just Alright,” it was evident that the crowd was in for a treat, as the Doobie Brothers were great for the duration of their set. In-between banter was kept to a relative minimum, with Johnston making up for it by getting the crowd involved while the songs were playing. Admittedly, it wasn’t hard to get into the set, as they played through hits such as “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” “Black Water,” and “Takin’ it to the Streets.” There was even time for Payne to show his keyboard skills. For the encore, they closed out with “Listen to the Music,” which ended an excellent set from a band that is still going strong.
Journey headlined the concert, and while “Don’t Stop Believing” is being beaten to death with overplay everywhere, there are plenty of other songs worth the time from Journey. The current lineup is Arnel Pineda (vocals), Neal Schon (guitar), Jonathan Cain (keyboards, guitar), Ross Valory (bass), and Steve Smith (drums).
Journey’s set began with “Separate Ways,” which immediately showed that Pineda had the presence and talent necessary to match Steve Perry, who most casual observers think of as the Journey vocalist when the name first comes to mind. Throughout the set, Journey displayed energy and a great ability to improvise, as Schon showed during his first guitar solo set that saw him break into the “Star Spangled Banner.” Songs such as “Any Way You Want It” and the ballad “Open Arms” displayed the range that they’re known for, and were mixed in with a keyboard interlude and drum solo from Smith that only Neil Peart can do better. The set ended with familiar favorites “Wheel in the Sky” and “Don’t Stop Believing,” as well as a song that saw Pineda put on a Kansas City Royals jersey that drew Moose calls (it was a Mike Moustakas jersey).
Overall, a great time was had by all at the Journey/Doobie Brothers show, and given the experience that all three acts, including the opener Dave Mason, have, it’s clear that they picked up on a few tricks to work a crowd while putting forth their best performances in the almost 140 years combined that they’ve been making music. If the Doobie Brothers or Journey hit your town, go see them because it will be well worth your time.of San Francisco Congress to Kansas City.
The Doobie Brothers
Words by Peter Santellan
Photos by Josh Chaikin