Who's on Vocals?
A DISCUSSION OF SAN DIEGO’S August concert lineup sounds like a new take on the old Abbott and Costello routine. Call it “Who’s on vocals?” Trying to figure out how many (if any) original members of your favorite veteran touring bands survive up on that stage is enough to make a music fan feel a bit hapless.
Classic rockers Journey appear this month at Coors Amphitheater without lead singer Steve Perry. He wasn’t the band’s first singer—Perry replaced Robert Fleischman when Journey was still a fusion spin-off of Santana—but he is the one who originally sang almost all the songs people want to hear. Handling lead vocals now is Steve Augeri. Steve who? At least Journey still has original lead guitarist Neal Schon.
Foreigner appears this month at Humphrey’s without original lead singer Lou Gramm, voice of all the band’s hits. Gramm’s replacement is Kelly Hansen. No one’s quite sure who he is. The only remaining original member of Foreigner is Mick Jones, who must be about 117 years old.
Dennis DeYoung, original lead singer of Styx, appears at Humphrey’s this month, sans Styx, billed as “The Music of Styx.” But just a few weeks ago, Styx, which still has guitarists Tommy Shaw and James Young, appeared without DeYoung at the San Diego County Fair playing, uh, the music of Styx.
Wait, there’s more.
Creedence Clearwater Revisited visits Viejas Concerts in the Park this month, without John Fogerty, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s original lead singer and writer of the band’s classic songs. In the strangest booking juxtaposition of the summer, Fogerty himself appears on the same stage this month—just a couple of weeks after Creedence Revisited. Viejas, what were you guys thinking?
The Doobie Brothers appear this month at Humphrey’s and Pechanga without longtime co–lead singer Michael Mc- Donald, who is appearing at select sites this summer as guest singer with Steely Dan (but inexplicably not at Steely Dan’s San Diego show last month). Original Doobie Brother co–lead singers Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons are still in the fold, but guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, who left Steely Dan to join the Doobie Brothers, is no longer with either band.
Then there’s recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Lynyrd Skynyrd, appearing this month at Pechanga without, of course, original lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, who died in a plane crash nearly 30 years ago. Ronnie’s younger brother, Johnny, is the band’s current frontman and does an admirable job of filling some very big shoes. But is Skynyrd really Skynyrd without Ronnie “Free Bird” Van Zant?
In fact, are any of these bands worth seeing without their key members? Judging from ticket sales, they are. The shared sentiment among many summer concertgoers is that at least these musicians, whoever they are, are keeping classic-rock music alive.
Chicago appeared at the Embarcadaro a few weeks ago without original co–lead singer Peter Cetera—who left 20 years ago—and the venue was full. Thing is, Chicago always has deployed several lead singers, and the legendary original horn section (James Pankow, Lee Loughnane, Walt Parazaider) and founding member/co–lead singer Robert Lamm are still in the group. As far as most fans are concerned, Chicago is still Chicago.
But when a band is so indelibly associated with one person— as Creedence is with Fogerty—things get weird. You’ve been warned.