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Tuesday, October 23, 2001

October 21, 2001: Volunteers for America

Dallas, TX
Smirnoff Music Center
I'm not sure where I got this photo from the close of the concert.
I know I didn't take it as I was closer to the stage and off to the right.
Hello one and all, your intrepid roving reporter has returned from her second trip to Texas in less than six months (yes, I do believe I am crazy.) I am warning you up front that this will be a LONG post.

I swore I'd never go back to Texas after my week-long drive through in June, but when the Volunteers for America shows were announced, I knew I had to find a way there. An offer from a friend for a place to crash for the weekend, and a calculation that my tax refund should be able to cover the trip, and I was off again. After a hellish week at work, I was never more eager to get out of town than I was on Saturday. Paying attention to all the travel advisories, I planned to arrive at the airport 2 hours early. Imagine my surprise when my father dropped me off at the Continental terminal at SFO and there was NO need to double park -- the curb was clear for most of the road! No line at the ticket counter either, and I was in shock. This is the 5th busiest airport in the country, and no waiting! Well... not exactly. Getting through security took much longer than usual and I quickly learned to just stick my drivers license in my pocket as I was asked for ID at the counter, the metal detectors, and again boarding the plane. It was heartbreaking to see the armed National Guardsmen at the security check -- I've seen soldiers with rifles in airports before, just never in this country. That was the first sign how things had changed. The second was the few people at the gates -- no one seeing people off, just passengers. The third -- my flight was about 1/3 full. I had a whole row of seats to myself, as did many passengers. It was a powerful reminder of what this concert was about.

Sunday evening came quickly, and after battling the fair traffic, the group of us who'd met in Dallas were at the Smirnoff Pavilion for the 5:00 start. The schedule posted at the box office said that the color guard and National Anthem would begin at 4:45, but as is fairly normal at concerts, things were running late. The show began at 5:15 with the Dallas Police Honor Guard presenting the colors and the singing of the National Anthem, and then we were off!

After a quick stand-up bit by Drew Carey, the show opened with the "Volunteers for America All-Star Band." First up -- Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw and a fantastic version of "You Can Still Rock in America," which set the tone and energy level for the entire night.

Two more songs by Jack and Tommy before the first change in the All-Star Band. Edgar Winter came out and was joined by Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad. I gotta admit, these were the two I was the least interested in seeing (and least familiar with, which makes sense) so it was an energy conserving rest for me. Two songs from this duo and it was John Waite's turn to hit the stage.

Waite's set was the first of several that triggered new meanings to songs I had heard before. After opening with "Change," he launched into "NYC Girl" from his new album. I'd loved the song this past summer, and now it had a new layer of meaning applied to it. He closed out with "Head First," and we experienced the first slow down in the change of acts. I was hot with the sun setting behind me so ran out to get a drink, and when I returned Mark Farner and Edgar Winter had returned to the stage and were doing a Grand Funk Railroad tune I recognized ("I'm Your Captain/Closer to Home".) Jack Blades and Drew Carey joined in on backing vocals (the first of several interesting guest appearances.)

Survivor followed with two songs, and as I have already apologized to Cheryl Ann for my blunder, I have to relate the tale of Jimi Jamison walking out on stage. He was dressed all in black and his access badge was clearly showing, and I was quite surprised when the guy I thought was a roadie started singing! Eddie Money closed out the All-Star set with three songs, and then it was time for the first intermission.

A black curtain came down, but there were several stools and microphones set out in front. A few minutes later, Styx came out with Jack Blades and performed an acoustic version of "High Enough." Fantastic! The intermission continued for a while after this, and I headed for the ladies room. When I returned, Kansas had hit the stage (which took a mental calculation from me as I had no clue what these guys looked like) and were performing a song I didn't recognize. Their set was fairly short -- only 3 songs by my notes, but I may be missing one -- and they too were joined by Drew Carey for backing vocals on "Carry On Wayward Son."

A quick change and Peter Frampton came out next sporting an FDNY T-shirt. Being the daughter of a retired firefighter, I was touched. In his interaction with the audience, Frampton announced that he had been living in the US since 1974 and was planning on becoming a US citizen now in wake of September 11 -- a huge cheer ensued. The most surprising aspect of his 3-song set was that "Do You Feel Like I Do" didn't last for 15 minutes like it had all summer! It was perhaps half as long.

Our next intermission followed with a few jokes from Drew Carey and an acoustic rendition of "Missing You" from John Waite.

By now it was after 8:00 and time for the "headliners." Styx came on first, and once again familiar songs took on new aspects. "Grand Illusion", "Come Sail Away", and "Renegade" stand out most in my mind. When Tommy Shaw tried to introduce "Fooling Yourself" he was drowned out by the chant of "USA-USA-USA" which began slowly in the back, and swelled hugely. The energy of the night and the show of patriotism caught my attention once again reminding me that this wasn't just another concert.

The curtain came down on the stage and our next acoustic set was up. Out comes Journey for the first time. This was the only point of the night that I was disappointed with my seat. I was in the 2nd row on the outside aisle on Neal's side of the stage. Great for the whole show EXCEPT for watching Neal play an acoustic guitar at center stage! Steve said a few words about the impact of September 11 on New York and mentioned he has a few friends in the fire department who have lost colleagues. This was the introduction to "Trial By Fire." Words really can't describe what this was like live -- Neal and Jon on acoustic guitars, Ross on his electric bass, and Deen with a silver tube he shook for percussion. The song brought tears to my eyes. Perhaps the highlight of this song was Deen showing off his impressive backing vocals -- it was very clear in such a simple setting. They followed TBF with "Liberty" -- an absolutely perfect tune. If this was ALL Journey did the whole night I would have gone home perfectly happy. It was a truly rare opportunity, and I'm glad I was witness to it.

Bad Company followed with a 7 song set that had a great deal of audience participation. At one point (during "Rock & Roll Fantasy" I believe) someone in the front row handed Paul Rodgers a cell phone and he kept on singing -- right into the phone! I can only imagine what the person on the other end was thinking!

Another set-change intermission with Peter Frampton doing his acoustic bit, and out comes Drew Carey to introduce "a new band" -- REO Speedwagon. Mercifully, Kevin Cronin kept his talking to a minimum (I thought he talked far too much the only previous time I've seen REO, which was last year in Las Vegas) and focused on the 6-song set. They closed with a raucous version of "Roll With the Changes" and were joined on stage by Styx and Drew Carey (once again -- and, yes he actually can carry a tune.)

Our final intermission of the night, and the most poignant. First we were greeted by Eddie Money who spoke briefly about his family of NYPD and then introduced two officers from the New York/New Jersey Port Authority. The line of his introduction that hit me in the gut was "these are the guys who were rushing in when everyone else was rushing out" -- a line my father has used many times describing his experiences as a fireman. One of the officers read a statement telling of their experiences and of the 37 Port Authority officers who lost their lives in the World Trade Center, and by the time he was finished, I felt as if someone had taken a hammer to my stomach. I've been identifying all too readily with the families of the NYPD and FDNY who have lost someone. I know that in a different time and place, I could be the one to have lost someone and that is not a comforting thought.

This emotional moment, as difficult as it was, was immediately followed by another one. REO Speedwagon came out once again, and Kevin Cronin told a story of a carpenter who had worked for the road crew of many musicians in recent years, and on a break from the Backstreet Boys tour, was on the plane from Boston to LA that crashed into one of the towers. He was on his way home to see the birth of his daughter, who was born two days later. A video of his wife and daughter appeared on the video screens that flanked each side of the stage. When the story was finished, REO launched into an acoustic version of "Keep on Loving You." I was a complete wreck, with Journey minutes away.

Thankfully, the intermission stretched on for longer than expected. From my vantage point, I was able to see behind the curtain somewhat, and it appeared they were having some kind of technical problem with the monitors. When Journey finally hit the stage it was about 12:30 a.m. You would think that at that hour the 15,000 or so people in attendance would have dwindled. The concert had gone on for nearly 8 hours at this point and the next day was a work day, but while there were a smattering of empty seats, the place was still packed.

Unlike the previous night in Atlanta, there was no "World Gone Wild" in this set, just a standard hits package. Neal's rendition of "Amazing Grace" set the place on fire. An absolutely huge roar. About half-way through the set, Steve changed from his standard-issue white shirt to a form fitting white T-shirt that said "I (heart) NY." They closed their 8+ song set with "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'." After the first round of "Na-na's" I see Tommy Shaw leading a charge of people running behind Deen's drum kit, and Styx, REO, Drew Carey, the police officers, Eddie Money, and some members of Bad Company & Kansas all joined Journey on stage for the long "na-na" waving section. It was great to see all these guys on stage at once. A better highlight was watching the two police officers taking pictures of themselves with as many people as they could!!

When LTS wrapped up, there were a few words of thanks to all the crew, and everyone sang "God Bless America." It was 1:20 in the morning, and the concert was over.

A few parting thoughts before I list the Journey set-list... While I am glad I was able to attend such a memorable concert, the reason I was attending this show was not lost on me. The quantity of death and destruction left in the wake of September 11 is not something any of us will soon forget. These shows raised a lot of money to benefit the people of New York, and I hope that point was not lost on the people in attendance. It is naive of me to think that those who scalped tickets to this show donated their profits to the Red Cross or some other worthy charity, but I can hope a few did. (The bootleggers out there still have an opportunity to stand up!)

And now the Journey set list (I do have notes on other set lists, but as I'm horrid with titles of some songs -- and some I didn't know -- I will not post those, but anyone interested may contact me privately and I'll be happy to give ya what I've got.)

Set list:

Separate Ways
-- Neal solo -- Amazing Grace
Stone in Love
Don't Stop Believin'
-- Neal solo --
Wheel in the Sky
Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'

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