Photo credits: Tim Simpson Jr.
Something awesome happened on the night of May 25, 2016… Journey and The Doobie Brothers came to Memphis, and put on a show at the FedEx Forum that myself and thousands of others have been waiting for forever. Since the 1970’s, these bands have given us music that has become a part of everyone’s life in some way. Whether it’s been growing up to “Listen To the Music” on the radio or choosing “Don’t Stop Believin’” as your favorite karaoke song, these great American rock bands are who we have to thank for countless hits.
The Doobie Brothers started off the show with four mics center stage, great energy, and a long list of classics. With four powerful voices, four guitars, and two drum sets, this was a unique show for anyone to see, especially for me. I love watching old rock bands perform live… it’s like they’ve gotten so good at it over the years that the music just effortlessly flows from the stage, but still with as much love for the performance as they had when they first started. The Doobie Brothers rolled through an awesome set list, performing their cover of “Jesus Is Just Alright”, and hits like “Listen to the Music”, and “Black Water”.
Journey was out next, opening their set with “Separate Ways” with lots of help from the audience. It was news to me that Journey has been a developing band since their start in 1973, losing, gaining, and regaining band members along the way. When a group has been around for almost 50 years, maybe it’s common knowledge that the members would come and go. But the coolest thing about seeing Journey live was seeing a name, a logo, a list of songs, and a musical vision that has lasted through three bassists, seven drummers, and six lead singers. Journey has earned its title as a true legend, living on through every obstacle that ever stood between them and world fame.
The show at the Forum was a great representation of that, too. With their years of combined experience and array of talents, the five incredible musicians all brought their best. Having a combination of new band members and old, the wide range of personality on stage was a show in itself as well. One thing that I’m sure of, all of the switching and swapping of members over the years has only left them with the best… Each so talented that they all had their own solo segment, one for each instrument. The last remaining original member of Journey, lead guitarist Neal Schon, had the crowd’s full attention with his guitar solo leading in to “Wheel in the Sky”. My personal favorite, the piano solo, was accompanied by a beautiful introduction from Jonathan Cain and preceded the band’s classic “Open Arms”. They also surprised the crowd mid-show with a cover of Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock”, leaving all of us Memphians filled to the brim with pride, joy, and an appreciation for the universal respect that exists for Memphis music and The King himself.
The atmosphere of the show for both bands was very different than what I’m used to. The crowd consisted of mostly middle aged adults who were particularly calm, not exactly screaming at the top of their lungs in anticipation or standing on their chairs holding signs. This was odd to me at first, almost sad for a second (hello, don’t they know that’s half the fun in a concert?!), but as much as it made me appreciate the joys of being young and wild, there was something different about this audience that I liked. They weren’t watching the whole show through the screen of their phone or struggling to get the timing perfect for the ultimate snapchat story. They weren’t rushing the stage or pushing to get to the front row. They were sitting in their assigned chairs, nodding their heads and smiling, singing every word of every song. They were enjoying the music with their eyes, their ears, their minds, and with whoever it was they had sitting next to them. It was simply a crowd that came to hang out with two great bands and enjoy some good old fashioned rock music. Right there, in the present. It was awesome.
Both groups brought an incredible night to Memphis and filled the FedEx Forum with a rock concert that would have made Elvis proud. Personally, I left and re-listened to their jams all the way home. It’s no surprise that music like that has the ability to power through all these years, and how lucky are we to still get to see it live on? Cheers Journey, cheers DBros, to a great show and a wonderful representation of the genre of rock!