Photography courtesy of Kerry Belliveau of Kerry’s Klips Photography
Story by Joe Burd
If the first day of Rock The Park ’13 was any indication of what was to come over the following two days – the 10th anniversary edition of London’s summer tradition that’s raised almost two million dollars for Bethanys Hope since its inception a decade ago – the second day of the annual three-day music festival held up to the hype and delivered another breathtaking evening of great live music and good times with friends.
In fact, not only did the second night of Rock The Park live up to the hype, but it raised the bar yet again with some of the best, most legendary internationally-recognized classic rock and 80’s bands ever to grace a stage with Helix, Platinum Blonde, Whitesnake and Journey on tap for the evening.
Last night, another distinct difference from the previous night was that people started packing into the park much earlier, with some folks having stood in line all day to be the first to pass through the gates.
Not only has Rock The Park became a Forest City favorite this time of year, but people literally come from all over the world, including hundreds of fans from Sarnia each year, to witness London’s national music festival each year. Many of the area motels and hotels are booked solid months in advance, making it almost impossible to find an empty room by the time the festival kicks off.
Good friends Dave and Scott, from London and Guelph respectively, spent the night on the exclusive Molson Pavilion and said that, though they were there to listen to all the great music and have a good time with close friends, their main reason for coming was to see legendary rockers Journey.
In fact, the Molson Pavilion was one of the best places to hang out for the night this year and, for that matter, every year, offering guests frosty beverages, games of skill, and an attractive team of Molson Canadian Girls on hand to help make the whole experience on the Molson Patio and, more broadly, Rock The Park one to remember.
MolsonCoors has been an invaluable partner and major sponsor of Rock The Park since its inception and continues to help make the the annual event one of the best in the world.
The night was off to a good start from the minute Canadian rockers Helix hit the stage shortly after 4:30 p.m., effortlessly serving up all of their most memorable, hugely popular tracks from the 80’s including their epic #1 hit Rock On. Hot off endless touring and most recently playing Sarnia’s annual Ribfest festival, Helix was at the top of their game almost as if they had stepped out of a time warp from the 80’s to make a special appearance at Rock The Park.
Next up shortly after 6 p.m., Juno nominated Toronto glam rockers Platinum Blonde – who reunited in 2010 after a 20 year hiatus when they inducted into the Radio and Television Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame – flanked the stage to a sea of people all eager to hear the unique sound of one of the best bands to come out the 80’s era.
The crowd couldn’t get enough as stage veterans Platinum Blonde rifled through a litany of hits including tracks such as Situation Critical, Crying Over You, Somebody Somewhere, Hungry Eyes and their latest single Beautiful.
By the end of Platinum Blonde’s flashback-inducing set, the crowd was ready for the ante to be upped by Whitesnake – one of the most popular, beloved rock bands in the history of modern music.
The darkened stage lit up once again as the band’s original members David Coverdale and Tommy Aldridge stormed the stage alongside with newer members Doug Aldrich, Reb Beach, Michael Devin and Brian Ruedy.
After 35 years of rock and roll, Whitesnake still pushes the envelop, hit after hit, with lead vocalist David Coverdale determined to defy aging with hip thrusts and energetic stage presence akin to what you might have seen 20 years ago. That bravado and presence has enabled Coverdale and the boys to also remain strident and boisterous enough to put over new material like the track Forevermore.
Though there was some new material in the mix, most of the tracks Whitesnake performed were straight out of their extensive catalog of international favorites including tracks like Here I Go Again, Still of the Night, Slide It In, Love Ain’t No Stranger, and Fool For Loving You.
After a champion’s start, the various extended guitar and drum solos seemed like distractions before the anticipated main event – Here I Go Again and Still of the Night.
A band that’s had its own ups and downs, breakups, replacements and finally a definitive reunion in 2002, there’s no question why Whitesnake was named the 85th greatest hard rock band of all time by VH1.
Whitesnake put on a show last night that succeeded stood up to longtime fans, helped to earn them a new generation of younger fans, and managed to prime the crowd like no other for what was still to come – Journey – one of the most successful, most enduring classic rock bands of all time the world over.
Every one of Journey’s sing-a-long anthems were melodic, upbeat and featured very impressive close harmonies. Such a tight stage presence and perfect vocals made people forget that Steve Perry was no longer a member of the band.
Arnel Pineda, the talented singer the band signed in 2007, hit every note and was highly energetic and keenly focused the whole set, exhaustively working on the entire capacity crowd with the pep of an aerobic instructor.
In fact, many feel and rightfully so that Pineda has revitalized Journey, breathing new life into the stage performance, track after track, interacting with the audience like a seasoned veteran and keeping the show’s energy levels at maximum overdrive. That said, original members bassist Ross Valory and lead guitarist Neal Schon also brought a lot to the show with a classic feel and vibe that, despite the younger energetic Pineda’s stage presence, kept the band’s performance true to its classic character and form.
Journey smoothly and effortlessly played one classic track after another including Any Way You Want It, Faithfully, Lights, Stone In Love, Wheel In The Sky, and Who’s Crying Now.
Saving the best for last as many bands do, Don’t Stop Believing was their grand finale (of the regular set) and, according to the crowd’s reaction, nobody was disappointed.
After the finale left the crowd demanding more, the band’s encore – Lovin’, Touchin’, Sqeezin’ – was epic enough to get raise the bar one more time and leave those in attendance satisfied with one heck of a great show by music legends. The end of the encore was marked with pyrotechnics and streamers that left everyone in the park in nothing less than genuine awe.
Rock The Park was created ten years ago by Jones Entertainment Group to support Bethanys Hope Foundation in progressing research for Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD). When the effects of this terrible disease hit close to home, claiming the life of seven year old Bethany McIntyre, friendship and hope came together with a vision to “Rock for a Cure”.
Last night, it was announced that Rock The Park is well on it’s way, in this 10th year of celebrating great classic rock for a good cause, to raising a total of 2 million dollars from the 1.5 million dollar mark that was reached last year.
This afternoon, the gates will open at 3:00 p.m. as Blackburn Radio’s Under The Covers contest winner Dirty Little Secret, who recently beat out Sarnia’s standard bearer cover band 3rd Wave in the contest finale at Norma Jean’s in London on July 4, 2013, is scheduled to open the day at 3:30 p.m.
After Dirty Little Secret finishes their set, Coney Hatch is expected to go on at 4 p.m. and SAGA at 5 p.m. At 6:15, the show will be taken up a few more notches with the likes of Grand Funk Railroad, TOTO at 7:45 p.m., and the headliner STYX at 9:30 p.m.