Summer's Best Classic Rock Shows—Journey, Kiss, and more!

Mighty dinosaurs of rock migrate to Minnesota during warm weather

Roger Waters performing on stage.
Roger Waters

phtoto by the 1point8

It’s the height of the fleeting Minnesota summer, and just as it was when our entire planet was swaddled in tropical heat, dinosaurs roam the plains. OK, not literally. But while summertime always seems to draw acts from the practically prehistoric classic rock era to our climes, there’s a particularly varied slate in our arenas and casinos this month. Here’s a field guide to spotting them in the wild.

A portrait of the rock band Journey.

photo courtesy of treasure island resort & casino


Treasure Island, 7/1

The subject of critical rejection and cool-kid scorn in their late-’70s, early-’80s hit-churning prime, Journey never seemed to care… and they’ve had the last laugh. Their music has held up better than nearly all of their peers’ (“Don’t Stop Believin’” is great, sure, but “Open Arms” and “When the Lights Go Down” also outpunch much of the nonsense I was listening to back then). Their brilliant lead singer, Steve Perry, has been gone for 20 years, replaced with a sound-alike his bandmates found on YouTube (Arnel Pineda, for whom Perry declared love and admiration while being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year). 

Queen + Adam Lambert

Xcel Energy Center, 7/14

Queen has been in more or less continuous operation since 1970, the purveyors of stadium-shaking anthems (“We Will Rock You”) and weirdly sweet melodic masterpieces (“You’re My Best Friend”). Their flamboyant genius singer Freddie Mercury died in 1991, but they grafted on other dinosaur parts to the hybrid beast for a while before settling on American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert.  


Grand Casino Hinckley, 7/15

These guys never seem to tire, or get tired of being KISS. They surf waves of comebacks and periods of relative public indifference without ever taking much of a break. It’s almost as though the tongue-wagging bass player Gene Simmons really is the un-killable monster he’s been dressing up as since 1973. The original line-up has broken up and reformed and broken up again, but they’ve maintained the good sense to hide their members under about an inch of makeup, and it’s not like anyone has ever needed to learn a fourth chord. For those who love them, not a bit of what I’ve just written matters in the slightest.

Peter Frampton performing on stage.
Peter Frampton

photo by john lill

Steve Miller Band With Peter Frampton

Treasure Island, 7/23

“Keep on a rock’n me baby.” “Do you feel like I do?” These choruses can stick in your head for hours (whether you like it or not). One of the men here redefined rock crankiness by calling out the Hall of Fame on the night of his induction. The other played on the most unhip David Bowie tour of all time. Neither will fail to play the (many) hits.

Roger Waters

Xcel Energy Center, 7/26

The primary creative force behind Pink Floyd’s neurotically brilliant successes has in recent decades forged a different kind of career, filling arenas with shows that focus as much upon multimedia spectacle as musical performance (though check out YouTube footage of his performance of “Pigs” in Mexico City last year if you doubt he’s one of the dinosaurs with the sharpest teeth). His Us + Them tour reframes Floyd standbys with innovative visuals and, one presumes, tracks from Is This the Life We Really Want?, his first new rock album in a quarter century. 

Billy Joel 

Target Field, 7/28

Did you know this guy has a helicopter pick him up on his front lawn in Long Island once a month to ferry him to Madison Square Garden, where he plays a sold-out concert to adoring fans, and makes it home for a reasonable bedtime? I mean, how many singer-songwriter dinosaurs have walked the earth then passed into career extinction while Billy Joel just keeps going in his own pugnacious, unfashionable way? He’s even quit making new albums, opting instead to bear down in concert on a songbook built over decades that rivals that of any other songsmith. 

Guns N’ Roses

US Bank Stadium, 7/30

Guns N’ Roses have defied more than typographical convention during their weird 30-plus-year odyssey through decadence, Stalinistic band machinations, and impossibly long album gestations—they’ve managed to outwit notions of what a rock band even is, with frontman Axl Rose effectively operating as one-man Gun with backups for a time after purging everyone else. The band is back together now (more or less), perhaps in the spirit of Johnny Rotten (when the Sex Pistols improbably got back together, he said, “We’ve found a common cause, and that’s your money.”). They reportedly still rock.

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