Photos and Review by Michael Bradley
Those that weren’t alive in the early ’80s won’t remember what an absolute juggernaut the band Journey were at that point in time. For a stretch of about five years they were arguably the biggest band in the world. They had a multi-platinum hit record on their hands with 1981‘s Escape (now over 12 million copies sold); their videos were all over MTV, and they were raking in gobs of money by touring the world. They had their own video game for crying out loud. They were everywhere.
Time took its toll on the band, and after vocalist Steve Perry’s departure (excuse the pun), the band marched on with singers Steve Augeri and (briefly) Jeff Scott Soto, before beginning their now famous YouTube search to find their current singer, Arnel Pineda. The hiring of Pineda has served as a bit of a re-birth for Journey, and the band is currently touring on a greatest hits package, bringing along San Francisco music veterans The Steve Miller Band and Tower of Power for a “Sounds of San Francisco” celebration.
Journey’s setlist was comprised of the band’s most popular songs and spanned their entire career, from the pre-Perry single “Wheel In The Sky” to two of the band’s songs with Pineda: “She’s a Mystery” and “Ritual,” both from 2011’s Eclipse.
Arnel Pineda is a joy to watch, and his infectious smile and joyous stage presence serve the band well, as do his outstanding vocals. With two releases and several years as Journey’s frontman under his belt, he’s solidified himself as the singer. Fans who are loyal to Steve Perry will probably never let the comparisons rest, but at this point what does it matter?
“Be Good To Yourself,” “Separate Ways” and “Any Way You Want It” got the night off to a rocking start. Guitarist Neil Schon’s instrumental-intro to “Stone In Love” contained a distortion-drenched snippet of “The Star Spangled Banner,” a nod to Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock performance no doubt. It’s hard to believe that Neil Schon played at Woodstock as a member of Santana. Quite a career.
Powerhouse drummer Deen Castronovo provided a stellar vocal performance on “Mother, Father,” one of the more vocally challenging songs from the Steve Perry era. Castronovo showed great range, capturing all of the dynamics and delivery of the original. In short, he “knocked it out of the park.”
“Lights” and the ballad-to-end-all-ballads “Open Arms” followed as each band member took a turn introducing a song with a brief bit of historical information. Keyboardist Jonathan Cain revealed that the initial spark for “Faithfully” was written, as a million ideas probably have been: “on a napkin.”
Set closer “Don’t Stop Believin’” turned into a massive sing-along, and even got a few of the ushers at the venue (who will remain nameless) dancing in the aisle.
The band probably could have played for another hour for their encore, but sadly only chose one song: the bluesy, hip-grinding “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.”
Overall, a phenomenal show and production.