Journey at Wrigley Field

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Journey at Wrigley Field

Postby SuiteMadameBlue » Tue Jul 27, 2004 10:19 pm

I saw this on the ClassicRockNews group. I thought most of the Journey (or sports) fans would enjoy this. :lol: ... ens/040726

CHICAGO -- The members of Journey stand in foul territory at Wrigley Field, accompanied by a coterie of stage managers, soundmen and handlers. Yes, that Journey -- the one that wrote your prom theme.

"Open Arms" plays on the public-address system as the Milwaukee Brewers take batting practice. It's "Classic Rock Night" at the ballpark. Guitarist Neal Schon will perform the national anthem. The band will sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch.

"Let me ask you something," says lead vocalist Steve Augeri. "The singing -- is it a bigger deal here than it is at other places?"

Who doesn't know this?

Apparently people who travel inside a hermetic bubble in which it's always 1981, that's who.

Keyboardist Jonathan Cain, a native Chicagoan, understands the popularity of the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley. "It's an honor," he says. "We'll have fun with it." He looks toward Augeri.

The definitive butchering of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was offered by Ozzy Osbourne. He neither knew the words, nor cared. He made random sounds, animalistic noises which, when backed by a wicked Sabbath guitar, probably sound OK. But when they're backed by a ballpark organ, they're exposed.

Chip Caray loved him.

"Of all the people we had, he was one of the best," Caray says. "I firmly believe it was an act. You know, Ozzy Osbourne, with the bangle bracelets and the hair like Mel Gibson out of Braveheart -- his physical maladies notwithstanding -- and the tattoos and O-Z-Z-Y on the knuckles.

"In the end he did something that has never been done before."

"As everyone just stands back in shock, he says to every member of our crew that was in the booth -- the cameraman, the lighting people, Steve, me, our production assistant -- 'Thank you very much. My wife and I had a lovely time. Give me a hug.' And, you know, we meet a lot of celebrities and a lot of people come up there, and most of the people are very, very nice. But not a single one of 'em until Ozzy Osbourne actually stuck his hand out and said, 'I want to thank you for showing my wife and me a lovely time.'

"You're supposed to have fun at the game. Ozzy did it his way," Caray says. "While it wasn't the most perfect rendition of 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame,' it was a lot of fun."

Neal Schon has a lot of fun with the "Star-Spangled Banner." Journey erected a frightening sound system behind home plate for his performance, a miracle of amplifiers stacked 20 feet high atop plywood platforms, riding on John Deere tractors. A sound technician named Rocko explains, "To properly do a sound system in here, what you need to do is to have fidelity." He points toward the Wrigley PA system in the rafters. "Old tin horns from 1940 are not fidelity."

Schon is bent over his guitar contorting his face, wringing out notes. Lots of notes. More notes than anyone remembered the anthem having. His version lasts longer than the attack on Fort McHenry that inspired the song. Dusty Baker chews his way through, like, eight toothpicks and wears out two sets of wristbands during the anthem. Carlos Zambrano will be eligible for arbitration by the time the song ends. Schon grits his teeth, shakes his head. Fans applaud, thinking it's over.

It isn't. But it's pretty good. No one ever said Journey couldn't play their instruments.

Chip Caray certainly isn't troubled by Schon's deathless anthem. Chip brings an electric guitar with him on road trips. "I play a Gibson, Les Paul. I've got an ES-355," he says. "So I just schlep it around. People don't know."

"I can't wait to talk to Neal. Say hello to him, talk a little music," Caray says. "Hopefully, he'll show me a few chops 'cause my guitar playing sucks."

Augeri and Cain are directed to the small cafeteria in the Wrigley Field press box during the sixth inning. The press box is entirely incongruent with the rest of Wrigley Field. It's inhospitable. Institutional. Dull white walls, steep stairs, narrow hallways. Large bulletin boards have lists of things you can't do. It feels like high school for sportswriters. The cafeteria is chilly and cramped.

Journey and its entourage have spent the game in a private suite. They're given hats with "7TH INNING STRETCH 2004" embroidered on the side, and jerseys with the retired numbers of Ron Santo and Ernie Banks. "CAIN 10" and "AUGERI 14."

Here, in the cafeteria, they decide to practice.

It's not that they're nervous -- Cain still have uncashed checks from their Frontiers album. It's just that they're pros. Augeri and Cain retreat to the kitchen. The cook is flushed out. The muffled sound of wailing rock stars seems to puzzle the beat writers who pop in to refill their sodas. "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" isn't necessarily a song that can be improved by preparation. Beer, yes. Preparation, no.

Journey emerges from the kitchen. Cain is way into the game. "See, this guy has trouble with that curveball," he says, essentially to no one.

Augeri continues his preparation. He's bending at the knees, twisting, getting limber. He goes back to the kitchen for more vocal exercises. Exit the cook, again. Cain gets Santo to autograph his jersey.

In the top half of the seventh, Journey slides into the WGN booth. They have the audacity to preface "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" with the chorus of "Don't Stop Believin'." The crowd is uneasy, but they're accepting. South Side fans would never stand for this self-indulgence. But at U.S. Cellular Field, they'd probably get Dokken for "Classic Rock Night."

Journey adds a few flourishes to the song, like it's a candlelit power ballad, but the Wrigley crowd doesn't really object. They're happy and swaying.

When Augeri returns to the cafeteria, he seems satisfied and relieved. Cain remains in the booth, talking to Chip and Steve.

The Cubs are ahead 4-1, beer sales have ceased, and the stretch is over. For a certain contingent of Cub fans, it's time to leave. A pair of sloshed girls trundle down an exit ramp. They're belting out "Don't Stop Believin'" and holding half-empty plastic cups aloft.

"Just a small town girl, livin' in a loooonley woorrrld
She took the midnight train goin' aaanyyywhere ..."

They sound like sick cats, but they're way past caring. They bump into a group of middle-aged men who seem pleased to have drunk girls bumping into them.

"Just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroi-oit
He took the midnight train goin' aaanywhaaaayre ..."

They can't recall exactly what the subsequent lyrics are, so they deliver them Ozzy-style, with lots of protracted vowel sounds. And they compensate for their lyrical inadequacies by singing louder.

"Aaaa-eeey uh-eeeeay smoky rooo-ooom,
Smell of wine and cheeeap perfuu-uume
Aaa-aaah-aaay uuuhh-aaay niiiieeaaay
It goes on and on and on and on ..."

"Doo-ooon't stop belie-eeevin' ..."

"Hold on to that fee-ee-eelin' ..."

"Streee-eeetlight peee-ople ..."

But the song never ends. It goes on and on and on and on.

Andy Behrens is a freelance writer in Chicago.
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Postby Guest » Tue Jul 27, 2004 11:35 pm

So let me get this straight: Ozzy, who is wearing adult diapers at this point in his life, butchers "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and he's adored. Yet, Steve, Neal and Jonathan are self-indulgent rockers stuck in a 1981 time warp? :?
I say let Fantasia sing the Anthem for the Chicago Cubs fans next time. They don't deserve a virtuoso like Neal playing guitar!!!! :evil:

Postby SuiteMadameBlue » Tue Jul 27, 2004 11:47 pm

I totally agree with you!!!
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Postby aragelfstone » Fri Jul 30, 2004 2:16 am

It's seems as though there is no bottom to the depths of degradation.
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