@ Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, June 7 2011

If Carlsberg did AOR heaven…they couldn’t do a better job than this. Three bands battling it out for pop rock supremacy with a packed crowd the ultimate winner.

Early birds and straight into their stride, Styx proved to be the perfect warm-up for the main event. Vocally sensational – neither Foreigner nor Journey beat Lawrence Gowan and Tommy Shaw on the night – the Chicago band didn’t waste a minute of their brief but spellbinding set.

With more than three quarters of the crowd in their seats to hear stone cold classics Too Much Time On My Hands, Lady and Renegade it was almost as if the headliners had arrived prematurely. And when Styx rolled off a flawless version of Come Sail Away it became clear this lot were never added to a tantalising triple bill simply to make up the numbers.

Unable to call on the flashy light shows used by their fellow bands and with time of the essence the rejuvenated six-piece simply relied on the music. It worked an absolute treat as the Metro Radio Arena was transformed into the Paradise Theatre for one night only.

Foreigner’s first task was upping the ante as Mick Jones and co. arrived on stage with Styx’s sugar-sweet melodies still ringing in their ears. Then again the multi-million selling AOR superstars have followed tougher acts in their career and the challenge appeared to enthuse the second band on the bill.

Kelly Hansen couldn’t be a better foil for Jones and the lithe former Hurricane frontman hit every note as if his life depended on it. After thrilling the High Voltage crowd with the set of the weekend in Victoria Park last summer the clamour for Foreigner’s return had reached fever pitch and this canny set maintained the band’s unrelenting momentum.

Hit after hit bombarded a crowd baying for more only to realise there was absolutely no opportunity to visit the bar or spend a penny. Wrapt from start to finish the masses took a lead from Hansen to throw themselves into classics Double Vision, Feels Like The First Time and Cold As Ice.

The party was in full swing by the time Urgent announced itself as what would be the highlight of the evening. Mixing a brilliant backdrop with Thom Gimbel’s spine tingling sax, Foreigner far surpassed any expectations with this one stunning song alone.

I Want To Know What Love Is almost seemed lame by comparison but Hansen wasn’t to blame. On an evening when Styx set the vocal standard, the assured singer was on a mission to pose the question Lou who?

It was a mission Hansen accomplished with some aplomb but poor Arnel Pineda struggled to emerge from the shadow of Messrs. Perry and Augeri for long periods of, by the headliners’ incredibly high standards, a patchy set.

Journey had promised to bring their A-game to the UK in the face of serious competition in the shape of Styx and Foreigner. Ultimately a ropey start suggested the main men were initially fazed by the supercharged performances of their touring buddies.

A poor mix coupled with an out-of-sync rhythm section scuppered Journey’s plans to make an immediate impact and Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) was barely representative of a band boasting class and experience in abundance.

Ask The Lonely marked a turning point with a big light show and powerful Pineda delivery pulling things around. Still failing to match Foreigner for sheer passion, Journey were on the road to recovery and by the time City Of Hope, from new album Eclipse, rang out Newcastle was just that.

The hope was justified. Open Arms hit all the right buttons and Pineda hit his peak on a pin sharp rendition of Faithfully. Running Urgent close as the song of the night, the Filipino revelled in the opportunity to fire off a perfect take on an AOR classic.

The final notes of that song sparked a mini exodus and, in truth, Journey’s encore was no jewel in the Tuesday night crown. Finishing like they had started, the headliners lacked spark as the curfew called and if complacency isn’t creeping in then consistency is certainly a problem. Foreigner won this particular battle but Don’t Stop Believin’ that Journey will win the war.

Simon Rushworth