Journey may have been around for almost 45 years now, but the band has never really gotten the respect many of its peers enjoy.
Sure, it’s got big hits like Don’t Stop Believin’, Open Arms and Faithfully, and will be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame this year, but it’s one of those bands that tends to feature in the lower reaches of any “Top 100 bands of all-time” lists rather than closer to the top.
Still, you won’t be able to truly appreciate Journey as a band until you watch it perform live.
During the band’s show at Stadium Malawati in Shah Alam, Selangor recently, it delivered a performance that not only harked back to its classic rock roots, but also revelled in its current relevance in pop-culture (thanks to TV shows like Glee and The Sopranos).
After a teasing instrumental intro featuring guitarist Neal Schon, bassist Ross Valory, drummer Steve Smith, and keyboardist Jonathan Cain, the show kicked off in spectacular fashion, with lead vocalist Arnel Pineda bounding onstage to the familiar keyboard intro of Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).
The 2007 appointment of Pineda as Journey’s lead singer led some of its more critical fans to disparagingly call them a “covers band”, but I disagree wholeheartedly.
Sure, Steve Perry may be THE voice of Journey’s biggest hits, but Pineda more than holds his own – there’s a reason he has been the lead singer of Journey for the last 10 years after all.
Constantly in motion, jumping, running, sliding across the stage, the pint-sized live wire also adds a youthful vibe to the songs, giving the overall show a boost of energy, especially on classic songs like Anyway You Want It an extra lift, and making for a much more satisfying live experience. His voice is reminiscent of Perry’s, but unique enough to be able to make each song his own.
Original founding member Schon is also an underrated guitar hero who embodies the heart of Journey more than anyone else. Watching him grind out spectacular solo after solo is an experience you can only get with the real deal, not with a covers band.
Each member of the band also deservedly got his own time to shine on solos, and on the first encore song, La Raza Del Sol, (which Scohn said is “very similar to the stuff I did with Carlos Santana”), the entire band (sans Pineda) embarked on a spectacular instrumental jam session that lasted almost 10 minutes long.
This, more than any of the more familiar hits, was the highlight for me, as it really showed just how tight a unit the band actually is, regardless of who the lead singer is.
That’s not to say that the rest of the concert wasn’t great, far from it. The 16-song setlist was heavy with the hits, of course, from radio staples Open Arms and Any Way You Want It, to older ones like Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’, Wheel In The Sky and Who’s Cryin’ Now.
Still, there was no doubt what Journey’s most awaited songs were – the emotional and heartfelt Faithfully further highlighted just how good Pineda’s voice, and the soaring Don’t Stop Believin’ getting the biggest cheers of the night.
In the end, Journey proved that it is truly a band that deserves the respect and success it has enjoyed, by delivering the polished solid show that only well-travelled Journey-men can deliver. So don’t you ever stop believin’ in them.