Hammons Review: Juke Box Hero Tour Wraps to Rock and Roll Satisfaction




Foreigner - Photo by Tony Amato

By CRAIG HAMMONS

The Juke Box Hero’s tour wrapped up in Irvine to a crowd of happy Rock and Rollers.

What more can you ask for on a hot summer night but to be outdoors with a cold beer and go back to a time when rock and roll ruled the world? Tonight proved rock and roll is not dead and is aging well. The songs have all stood the test of time.

These veteran arena rockers are still out on the road playing to large crowds and selling out the biggest venues across America. The Irvine FivePoints Amphitheatre was packed with long-haired classic rockers, moms, dads and their kids.  Everyone was sporting their favorite T-shirt from back in the day and was looking forward to revisiting some of the songs they all know by heart.

I was not about to miss the opening act Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening. Jason has a top-notch band that recreates Led Zeppelin tunes with haunting similarity. They took the stage promptly at 7 PM with the evening sun shinning directly into their eyes.

They opened strong with the “Immigrant Song” and I was immediately surprised how much the lead singer sounded like Robert Plant. Not an easy thing to do. The singer’s name is James Dylan and was found by Jason on YouTube singing Led Zeppelin covers. They kicked right into “Good Times Bad Times” and the “The Ocean” before Jason got out from behind his drums to address the audience and reminisce a bit about his legendary father John Bonham.

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Sakarai
Photo courtesy of Jimmy Sakarai

Jimmy Page’s duties are handled by the amazing Jimmy Sakarai who could be Page’s evil clone.  They kept their set tight and moving and by the time they got to “Rock and Roll” we were all up singing and dancing in the aisles.  They kept the energy level up with “Black Dog” and “Whole Lotta Love” which let Jimmy show his chops, nailing Page’s solos note for note.

He then strapped on his double neck guitar and they ended the set with “Stairway to Heaven.” This was as close as we will ever get to hearing these legendary songs in a live setting done with justice and respect to the originals. Next year will be Led Zeppelin’s 50th anniversary. I may be old but I was there at the beginning and never left.

The evening really started to heat up once the mighty Whitesnake took the stage lead by one of the greatest rock and roll singers of all time the magnificent David Cloverdale.  They have the twin guitar attack of Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra with the powerhouse drumming of Tommy “ The Octopus” Aldridge.

They opened the same way they did back in the 80’s with “Bad Boys” and after the last note they went into “Give Me All Your Love Tonight” where we all got to sing along. Cloverdale is a true rock star with class and a commanding stage presence.  He leads these lads thru hits that span decades and played most of the songs in this set from Whitesnake’s self-title 1987 album. After thundering thru  “Love Ain’t No Stranger” and “Slow and Easy” it was time to let the guitar players solo.  Reb and Joel trade solos back and forth like they are in a boxing match.   Cloverdale slides back on stage and as the solos end they go into “Crying in the Rain” which like all good rock concerts from back in the day you had to let the drummer get his solo in.

Tommy Aldridge does more than just play the drums he attacks them with everything he has got.  At one point even abandoning his sticks to play with his hands.  He was nicknamed “The Octopus” as when he is playing it looks like he has eight arms.  After this frenzy of guitar and drums it was time to slow things down a bit with “Is This Love” which was originally written for Tina Turner.

But you can’t slow these guys down for long and it was time take this on home with “Slide It In” and “Here I Go Again” which had everyone singing along. Cloverdale had the crowd in the palm of his hand and while the energy level was still peaking he asked the crowd “ do you want to make some noise” and we all screamed like we were having a heavy 80’s flash back. Then the opening riff of “Still of the Night”  rang out and they went off and we went crazy.  When everything settled down a bit Cloverdale lifted his glass of beer to the crowd thanked us all for a enjoyable evening and told us “to be safe, be happy and don’t let anyone ever make you afraid.” This was going to be hard act to follow.

Foreigner - Photo by Craig Hammons
Foreigner – Photo by Craig Hammons

Foreigner opened strong with “Long, Long Way From Home”  and the hits just kept coming from then on.  However, it was not until about the fourth song in were any the original members on stage but no one seemed to mind.  New lead singer Kelly Hansen who sings like the ghost of Lou Gramm led the band thru “Double Vision,” “Head Games” and “Cold as Ice” working the stage and  owning it. Hansen then said they just celebrated their 40th anniversary and asked for a round of applause as he introduced Mick Jones who wrote most of Foreigner’s hits with missing Lou Gramm.

The memories came back with “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “Feels Like the First Time.”  After selling over 80 million records and losing band members Foreigner has clawed their way back up to the top even without their original singer and full time guitarist.   The band now consist of the best session players in the business who have played with the likes of Aerosmith, Dokken, Dio and Eddie Money.

Mick Jones - Photo by Tony Amato
Mick Jones – Photo by Tony Amato

Mick Jones then sat in for a keyboard solo while Kelly Hanson slipped out into the audience to get on a riser for the finale “Juke Box Hero.”  They came back out for their encore of “I Want to Know What Love Is” with a local children’s choir.  Hansen really united the audience and the band on this one. We all ate it up. Then they let it rip with “Hot Blooded.” These guys may only be a shell of their original self’s but I had no complaints as they still rocked liked it was 1984 with a fresh coat of paint.

The fans showed up tonight to hear the songs of yesterday that they have known and loved for years.  Tonight’s show gave us a fun and energic wild rock and roll ride that we did not want to end.