Three bands of identical vintage and geographical origin (late 1960s, California) hit the stage of Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Tuesday night.
Each of these incredibly deft ensembles earned their rock star stripes performing on the stage of the famed Fillmore in San Francisco – and then musical points beyond.
Journey and the Steve Miller Band (billed as co-headliners, according to their merch) – and opening soul-funk ensemble Tower of Power are each firmly planted in the pantheon of American rock and roll.
The sing-along factor was huge, rising in intensity with each band. The crowd, although not a sell-out, was loud – and ecstatic.
Steve Miller, looking oh-so-very-Cali in white jacket (sleeves rolled up) over black shirt and pants and slouchy hat and shades, hit the stage and launched into “Jungle Love” with the band. The song, a party staple, sounded lovely and new.
It was on to “Take the Money and Run,” “Abracadabra,” and then much subtler “Sugar Babe.” During the latter, several audience members in the amphitheater took their eyes off of Miller to watch intense rain pouring onto those on the nearby lawn – for only that one song. After that gentle tune, the skies turned less stormy.
Miller sought to edify the crowd between songs, noting names of releases and dates while the crowd waited for discernible hits somewhat patiently. It was on to “Space Cowboy,” and “Fly Like an Eagle” before another gentle lullaby, “Serenade.”
An interesting deep-cut selection was “Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma”: the band was seemingly very into re-exploration of their 1973 mega-hit “The Joker.”
The set’s high point was a three-song delight with Miller playing before a scrim in solo acoustic fashion. Arguably one of the band’s best-ever tunes, “Wild Mountain Honey,” melted into “Gangster of Love,” and then a marching “True Fine Love.”
“The Joker” was met with shrieks of excitement and familiarity, one of the set’s wrap-up tunes. The band swung through more of mega-hits: “Swingtown,” “Jet Airliner,” and “Keep on Rockin’ Me Baby” before the rollicking encore “Fly Like an Eagle.”
Journey took the stage to impressive, collective screams from the audience.
Acrobatic of voice and body, Arnel Piñeda (no longer a newcomer to the band and its fans) bound about the stage, a commanding presence. Their opener, “Be Good to Yourself,” was another unusual selection during the night.
Neal Schon was on fire all set long, especially during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Beloved hit “Faithfully” happened, and amid the deafening sing-along, then it was on to mighty perennial hit “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Tower of Power, a ten-piece collective of soulful horns and back line, went from funk to political when they strode into self-explanatorily-titled “Only So Much Oil in the Ground.” Synchronized horn section swaying, gospel leanings, and inter-song entreaties to party heartier made for a fun and funky set. One of T.O.P.’s biggest hits, “What Is Hip” became a call-and-response number with Braggs working the front section of the amphitheater.