Review by Atsuko Saito
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Since its inception in 1973, Journey has had a history of heavy-hitter personal changes, including keyboardist Greg Rolie (ex-Santana) and drummer Aynsley Dunbar (ex-Jeff Beck Group), but the nucleus of the group’s hit-making era was guitarist Neal Schon, bassist Ross Valory, keyboardist Jonathan Cain and super-vocalist Steve Perry.
However, after three decades or touring, performing, writing and recording a string of world-wide hits including “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Wheel in the Sky,” frontman Perry rejected repeated offers from Schon and Cain to regroup and tour again the mid-2000s. So the band had to find a new lead singer who could continue the band’s legacy and bring it into the future.
Vocalists Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Seto may have filled a temporary void in the band’s line-up for a short while, but it wasn’t until Schon saw singer Arnel Pineda in a cover band imitating Steve Perry singing the Journey song “Faithfully” on YouTube that the die was cast, and the vocal spot in the band was finally filled in 2007. The fit was so good that with several world-wide tours and two new collaborative albums (Revelation and Eclipse) under his belt as the frontman, Pineda is still going strong and galvanizing audiences everywhere with his dynamic vocal pyrotechnics on Journey’s songs, both old and new.
Pineda is now in his mid-40s, but by the way he was jumping and running around SPAC’s stage, he looked as if he was in his early 20s. Flashing his friendly, ear-to-ear smile – both to the audience and to his band members – you could tell that he was happy to be there with the band song-after-song for the hour-and-a-half-plus concert.
Keyboardist Cain is the co-composer (along with Perry) of some of Journey’s most crowd-pleasing classics, including the mega-hit, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and his solo keyboard spot preceding “Open Arms” captivated the listeners with its medley of several tunes pulled from Journey’s four-decade repertoire. While listening to the songs segue one into another, long-time fans were amazed and charmed to realize how many beautiful Journey songs they have enjoyed over the years.
Journey’s bassist Valory expertly played the group’s bottom notes while constantly making funny faces – especially with his eyebrows – to the audience and in the beginning of the set, the photographers. It was as if he was trying to amuse children.
Drummer and percussionist Deen Castronovo kept a precise beat, but he can also sing! He could be a lead singer if he wanted to because his husky voice fits so many musical contexts – especially when interpreting “Mother, Father,” as his vocal prowess conveyed the misery of the song’s intent. It touched your heart to hear him sing.
There isn’t much left to say about Schon, except that he keeps playing as good as he ever did. His guitar style never gets old, and he is one of the best ever.
Journey’s performance ended with red, white & blue confetti falling from the rafters as the audience got up and cheered them goodbye after the encore, “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.”
Stuck in the middle of this triple bill was the always-great Steve Miller Band. They had the audience dancing in and around their seats with classic hits, from the rocking “Jungle Love” and “Rock’n Me” to the ethereal encore of “Fly Like an Eagle.”
Opening the night’s musical candy-box at SPAC were the horn-led powerhouse grooves of Tower of Power.
JOURNEY SET LIST
Be Good to Yourself
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
Any Way You Want It
Only the Young
Stone in Love
She’s a Mystery
La Do Da > Anytime
Wheel in the Sky
Don’t Stop Believin’
Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’