By Keith Sharp
Imagine attending a concert which featured a succession of greatest hits by the likes of Journey, Foreigner, Santana, Asia and Toto. Music nostalgia buffs would be in seventh heaven.
But that’s exactly what is going to happen on Friday July 7th and Saturday July 8th when former Asia bassist/lead vocalist John Payne brings his Rock Pack to the Haverock Revival Festival at Havelock near Peterborough. A concept that features the former lead vocalists of these chart-topping bands all singing their hit songs to a backing band supplied by Payne.
Aside from singing Asia classics like “Heat Of The Moment” and “Only Time Will Tell”, Payne will also introduce ex Foreigner lead vocalist, Lou Gramm, former Santana frontman Gregg Rolie, Steve Augeri who replaced Steve Perry in Journey and ex Toto vocalist Bobby Kimball who will perform a succession of their former band’s greatest hits.
“It really is like all five classic rock bands are playing together on one stage at one time, the fans just love it,” noted Payne on the phone from his Henderson, Nevada home, just outside of Las Vegas. “Where else can you see such a lineup of bands with, for the most part, their original singers.”
Payne, who was born 30 miles outside of London England, succeeded the late John Wetton in Asia and spent 16 years touring with keyboardist Geoff Downes in a succession of Asia lineups. He was also tagged to replace Jeff Lynne as the new lead vocalist in Electric Light Orchestra before naming rights stopped that initiative and Payne also performed with the touring company of Jeff Wayne’s highly successful `War of the Worlds’ live stage show.
But it was in Las Vegas that the idea of the Rock Pack germinated. While creating a live music nostalgia show called `Raiding The Rock Vault’ which chronicled the birth of classic rock (and was voted the top Vegas musical production in 2013), Payne formulated the ideal of a concept that would feature multiple lead vocalists.
“Alan Parsons, Ronnie Montrose and I were handing out awards at a Pollstar industry event and we gave an award to an agent who came up with the idea of twinning Def Leppard and Journey together,” explained Payne. “At that time, neither band was drawing more than 2.000 fans a night, but put them together and they were selling out 25,000-fan stadiums, it was absolute genius. So I though, if you could get that result with two bands, imagine what you could do with five!”
Payne had also taken note of the success ex Beatles drummer Ringo Starr had achieved by drafting a bunch of top name artists like Peter Frampton, Todd Rundgren and Burton Cummings to feature as an ensemble lineup in his Ringo’s All-Star Band set up, but by the time Payne had completed his vision in 2014, he added a decided Vegas touch to the format.
As fans at Haverock will witness July 8th, set up on stage right is a facsimile of an English pub, Payne and his band will take the stage, play a couple of Asia classics and then he will walk over to his ‘pub’ and introduce his first ‘guest’ Lou Gramm who will come out, chat for five minutes, perform a song or two with Payne, and then be replaced by another guest vocalist until he’s chatted with all four vocalists.
“It’s kind of like David Letterman meets classic rock,” cracked Payne. “The crowd gets an insight into their personality, finds out what they are up to and we flash some vintage rock footage of them on the jumbotron. And then, for the second part of the show, all five of us come back on stage individually to sing more hits. It’s a great formula.”
It’s also an interchangeable formula in that Payne has also performed with a lineup that included Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander, Jefferson Starship’s, Mickey Thomas, Kansas frontman Steve Walsh and Fee Waybill from The Tubes and, going forward there are numerous other permutations that could fall into place.
As nostalgia continues to draw old and new fans alike, Payne has already take his Rock Pack (named after Frank Sinatra’s famous Rat Pack) to places like Puerto Rico where they pulled 12,000 fans and future dates are set for Trinidad, Scandinavia, Thailand and several U.S festival dates.
“For me to play with these guys, it’s like a bucket list to perform with my heroes,” enthused Payne. “These guys are so easy to work with, they’ve all got an attitude of been there, done that, they have nothing to prove and the pub segment allows people to see their true character.”
So tell us John, is there really drinking going on at this pub of yours? “Well I might knock off a pint during that initial segment”, he laughs. “But after the show? that’s when the real party starts.”