If you never had the chance to see Journey or Foreigner the first time around, you'd be forgiven for assuming that both bands still boasted their original lineups.
Wednesday, what appeared to be a close-to-capacity crowd took in inspired sets from both bands at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. That neither band can still count among its ranks the singer responsible for its biggest hits -- Steve Perry in the case of Journey, Western New Yorker Lou Gramm in Foreigner's situation -- seemed to dampen no one's enthusiasm. It's possible that many in attendance didn't even know the difference.
That's because Journey's new singer, Arnel Pineda -- the Philippines-born vocalist who joined the group in 2007 -- sounds an awful lot like the departed Perry, whose incredible range and Sam Cooke-like propensity for soulfulness has made him an icon, even in retirement.
Pineda nails all the Perry parts with conviction and virtuosity. A cynic might call it killer karaoke, but the legion of Journey lovers -- including, no doubt, a host of "newbies" turned on to the band by the use of its music on the "Glee" TV series -- remains devoted to this band's grandiose, anthemic rock.
They got a hits-heavy set of that bigger-than-life sound on Wednesday, as Journey offered only two songs from its new effort, "Eclipse" -- the stronger of the two was the powerful, optimistic "City Of Hope" -- and instead concentrated on the Perry-era material that made it one of the biggest stadium bands of the late '70s and '80s.
The opening one-two salvo of "Separate Ways" and "Ask the Lonely" celebrated the band's unmatched ability to blend massive pop hooks with arena-rock bombast and killer vocal harmonies. Right out of the gate, guitarist Neal Schon -- one of the two remaining founding members, along with bassist Ross Valory -- tore into his trademark hybrid of long-toned melodic lines and hyper-speedy pentatonic flurries.
"Only the Young," "Stone In Love" and "Who's Crying Now" married pop ballads to epic guitar solos, and throughout, Pineda remained in a form that was pretty damn close to flawless.
Pineda did appear to be struggling with the highest of the high notes during "Faithfully," but he nailed "Don't Stop Believin' " with the full cooperation of the assembled, most of whom seemed to be singing -- make that screaming -- along.
Foreigner -- with only founding member and leader Mick Jones representing the original lineup -- fared nearly as well as Journey.
With new singer Kelly Hanson taking Gramm's place, the band delivered powerful takes on its biggest hits. "Double Vision," "Head Games" -- with a nice extended guitar solo from Jones -- "Cold As Ice," and the ballads "Waiting For A Girl Like You" and "I Want To Know What Love Is" were performed flawlessly and with an edge that reveals the band's debt to the Paul Rodgers-led bands Free and Bad Company. The crowd did not reserve all its love for Journey -- Foreigner was welcomed with, er, open arms.
Californian power-pop/metal outfit Night Ranger played a short but powerful early set. Singer/bassist Jack Blades, guitarist Brad Gillis and drummer Kelly Keagy offered a set of songs from their '80s heyday that was pretty smokin'.
The band finished its well-received gig with its two biggest hits, the ballad "Sister Christian" and the top-down, sunny-day rocker, "You Can Still Rock in America."
Journey and Foreigner With Night Ranger.
Wednesday night in the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.