Journey / Steve Miller Band Bell Stage, Quebec QC, July 6
Published Jul 07, 2014If Saturday at Festival d'été focused on the next generation of hip-hop, Sunday found the francophone capital revisiting the ghosts of dad rock's past.
As the day's dewdrops gave way to a stream of blinking lights and friendly smiles, throngs of middle-aged couples, families and party-ready teenagers descended upon Quebec's historic Plains of Abraham for the festival's first classic rock-centric night of the year.
Steve Miller Band took the stage at dusk. Accompanied by a pair of shimmering pegasi, the stage glimmered in the twilight as the silver-haired guitar god delivered a hit-laden set filled with fatherly fretwork. Standouts included sing-along staples like "Take the Money and Run," "The Joker" and "Swingtown," but the set was marred throughout with throwaway tracks from 2010's Bingo, as well as an overly indulgent acoustic aside.
After a short break in which the stage became blanketed in a sea of stars to the strains of "Space Intro," the band returned for a lacklustre rendition of "Fly Like an Eagle," allowing Miller one last time to noodle around needlessly for seemingly no one's enjoyment but his own.
As dusk turned to darkness, Journey took the stage to what was likely the festival's largest crowd in the previous three nights. Most have probably heard the tale of the band's lead singer Arnel Pineda and his rise from YouTube covers star to frontman for the FM mainstays in 2007. Although working with the band originally offered the singer a new lease on life, it was clear that Pineda's presence helped the 40 year-old rock act stay youthful, thanks to his endless enthusiasm and eye-grabbing theatrics.
Exploding with the chiming keyboards of "Only Be Good to Yourself," Pineda and the band burst onto the stage, with the leather-clad frontman jumping six-feet onto the stage's lower riser ahead of the track's signature solo. Bounding across the stage and baiting the crowd with any spare moment he had, Pineda delivered a flawless version of "Any Way You Want It" to an increasingly adoring audience, who only grew louder as guitarist Neal Schon ripped through a riff-heavy rendition of the Canadian national anthem on his six-string.
Delving into some deeper, lesser-known cuts like 2011's "She's a Mystery" and "Ritual," the Quebecois crowd kept their energy levels high, reserving a bit of extra juice for the night's hit-laden climax. "Wheel in the Sky" and "Faithfully" got the lighters and cellphones in the air, but it was the group's most well-known number, "Don't Stop Believin'," that caused one of the loudest sing-alongs of the weekend.
After a short hiatus, the band returned once more for an extended "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'," which felt more like an excuse for the group's instrumentalists to show off their chops than create a strong climax. Nevertheless, the 20-song set was clearly one of the brighter moments of the festival. No matter how long it took for the band to find their frontman, it appeared like performing with Pineda was well worth the wait.