The final show in this summer’s Arts in the Park series was an act with a fascinating modus operandi. Black Jacket Symphony is the name of the operation. On Friday night they were the rock band Journey on the bandstand in City Park.
BJS is a touring company that performs close versions of “classic rock” albums and then follows up with an hour of the other well-known material by that band or soloist. They recruit different musicians to give themselves the right sound.
We heard Kansas City’s Danny Wayman singing all the Steve Perry parts in the Journey album “Escape.” Wayman had a little more gravel in his voice than did Perry, but he sang the material well. He was successful even with the slow boogie “Loving, Touching, Squeezing” that seems the best representation of what Perry sounds like.
This version of BJS did a solid, disciplined version of the songs on the l.p. And one can imagine why this flagship album from the navy of arena rock music would be a good choice for them. Almost every track of the 10-song album was released as a single. It opens with prom fave “Don’t Stop Believing.”
On that song, and on the majority of numbers the band would play, we heard all the musicians — two keyboard players (one singing), kit drums (singing), electric bass, two guitars (one singing, one management pet Brian Gibson), and Wayman. All of them could play the parts. Gibson and Wayman were the stars of the show.
“Who’s Crying Now” is the other major hit on the l.p.
Once they’d gotten through the album, the show’s “producer” came on to explain the act’s scheme, to remind us that Wayman was a virtual local, and to tell us that the show would continue (without a pause) with a series of Journey’s best known material from other recordings.
So how do they start part 2? They go to the sure thing Journey song, “Anyway You Want It,” which shouldn’t be confused with an even greater Dave Clark Five recording of the same title.
If Wayman (and the soloists) were generally mixed a little low (and generally electronically processed) maybe that was more obvious during the greatest hits section of the show. We got 13 songs here. Following “Anyway You Want It” the band played “Wheel in the Sky” and it was finally dark enough that we began to get the benefit of the act’s motorized lighting.
The popular ballad “Lights” followed, and this time the second guitarist took the solo. We had a little sing-along on this one. Among the numbers that followed were “Ask the Lonely,” “Anytime That You Want Me,” and “Oh Sherrie,” which was a product of a Perry solo album, “Street Talk,’ while he was not in Journey.
This was a good show, a solid show, and an interesting show. Listeners may have wondered about the trouble the rhythm section had getting into grooves. Part of the problem may have been with the music of the 1980s, and with all those line-ending changes. But still, couldn’t we get down to a regular bump on “Loving, Touching, Feeling”? Nah-nah nah nah-nah — you’d think that would run on nicely without hesitation.
When this version of Black Jacket Symphony isn’t touring, imitating Perry, Okie Neal Schon, Gregg Rolie and the great Aynsley Dunbar, a different version of the act is doing “Hotel California,” “Rumours,” “Purple Rain” or “Dark Side of the Moon.”
Apparently they have done dozens of old rock albums including also “Back in Black,” “Eat a Peach” and “Sticky Fingers.”
So this was a decent end to an interesting summer series at the Norvell. This year’s weather was hot, but not really dusty. Who knows what next year will bring.