When I got word that I was going to be covering Journey on their most recent tour, I admit, I may have squealed at a pitch that even Steve Perry in his heyday couldn’t have hit. Memories of my second floor bedroom of my parent’s house, spinning 45’s on a record player and then on to the cassette tapes of the 80’s. High School dances spinning with a girl crush to ‘Open Arms’, summertime car rides blasting ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, Journey…live.
There have been many shapes to Journey over the years, many think of the band and automatically (with just cause) think of the iconic vocals of Steve Perry. But, the band that formed in San Francisco in 1973, composed of former members of Santana and Frumious Bandersnatch, it wasn’t several years later (1977) that Perry entered the picture. The early 80’s saw the band enter it’s heyday and it’s most succesful studio release, 1981’s Escape, which led to hits “Who’s Cryin’ Now”, “Don’t Stop Believin'”, and “Open Arms”. 1983’s album “Frontiers” saw the band playing to crowds of 50-80,000 seat stadiums, and rolling out four more hits in “Separate Ways”, “After The Fall”, “Send Her My Love”, and the massive “Faithfully”.
Between 1983-1995 the band went through a long period of transition, taking time off after Frontiers, a few solo projects, members of the band being fired and replaced with studio musicians (like American Idol Judge Randy Jackson on bass). Members of the band melded into other groups like Bad English which Schon and Castronovo became members of. Ironically during this time (Between 1987 and 1995) Columbia Records released three Journey compilations, including the 1988 greatest hits album, which remains the band’s best-selling record. It continues to sell 500,000 to 1,000,000 copies per year.
In 1996, the band, with the lineup from Frontiers, returned with the release of “Trial By Fire”. Although, it garnered some success, even having “When You Love A Woman” reach no. 12 on Billboard; many felt that the hiatus was too long, the magic was gone. When Perry refused to fix a health issue in order for the band to go on tour, the band decided to replace Perry. With a brief stint where they brought in a couple of other lead singers, in 2007 Neal Schon found his man…on YouTube. Arnel Pineda was in the Philippines, singing Journey cover songs in bars and Schon saw him on YouTube, contacted him (Pineda thought it was a joke at first) and the rest as they say is history. They even made a documentary (Rockumentary?) about the finding and transition to Pineda called “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey”.
We didn’t get in for the opening act (Neal Schon’s guitar laden “Vortex”), and were misdirected by security into the pit (where we weren’t supposed to be) and finally got ourselves situated as the band came out full force and greeted the Moncton crowd in the very hot Moncton Coliseum. Even though I had watched the movie documenting Schon picking him as the new singer, Pineda impressed me and by the fourth song when he sang “Open Arms” I was floored. They rolled through song after song, the heat of the band matching the heat in the building. The band was joined on the tour, filling in for long time drummer Deen Castronovo, by Omar Hakim a very accomplished talent of his own right. Hakim, not only having released several of his own albums, has played with the likes of Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, Dire Straits, Madonna, Sting, and many more.
It was interesting to hear Jonathon Cain describe sitting in the seats after a show in the early 80’s watching the crew tear down the stage, to move on to the next arena. He described the emotions that he went through thinking of his family and how the crew must be going through the same thing…a day or two later he finished writing “Faithfully” a song all about life and love on the road while in a band.
There were many nostalgia moments on this night, ushers dancing to ballads in the aisles, many many singalongs as Pineda encouraged the crowd to join in, and streamers shot into the crowd at the end of “Don’t Stop Believin'”.
Crossing this band off my list has been a long time desire, yes it wasn’t with Steve Perry, but who cares, Arnel Pineda sounds like Perry so much it’s incredible, he’s a fantastic performer and the band still entertains you after four decades. I encourage you to get out there and see this band on this tour, your won’t be disappointed! Thanks to Journey, Evenko, and PPRL for a great musical night at the Moncton Coliseum.