In Concert, Journey Still Going Strong After 50 Years

by Christopher Ehlers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday March 8, 2022


When you think about iconic songs that have endured the test of time and have seemingly entered into the collective consciousness of the world, most bands can't say that they've written one such song. But Journey (going strong for nearly 50 years) can brag about having written a whole bunch. A lot of people probably don't know a thing about the band itself, but they sure can name a few of their songs. And they probably know the words, too.

Certainly, everyone in my sightline at a recent performance of their brand-new Freedom Tour knew every word, and I wasn't far behind, despite being decades younger than my fellow concertgoers. This tour, their first in four years, will have been performed 40 times around the country by the time it ends in May in Connecticut. Not bad for a band that was formed by a couple of Santana alums in San Francisco five decades ago.

It's also impressive, frankly, that Journey has managed to survive the seemingly insurmountable setback of losing its lead singer. Steve Perry — that iconic voice you hear on Journey's biggest hits — left the band in 1987 before briefly rejoining in the 90s (Perry would be replaced by Steve Augeri for eight years before Arnel Pineda was hired, who has been Journey's frontman since 2007). It's impressive, yes, but it's also surprising, especially to those who wonder to what extent Journey is still Journey with a different lead singer who, it seems, was hired because he sounds an awful lot like Perry.

After all, Perry was not just the band's lead singer during its heyday. He also co-wrote all their best songs along with Neal Schon and, sometimes, Jonathan Cain. Gratifyingly, both Schon and Cain are still touring with the band. To put it bluntly, there are people who say that Fleetwood Mac isn't Fleetwood Mac without Lindsey Buckingham; Queen isn't Queen without Freddie Mercury; The Eagles aren't The Eagles without Glenn Frey; and, perhaps, Journey isn't Journey without Steve Perry.

To be clear, I am not one of those people. I've seen Fleetwood Mac Buckingham-less, Queen with a new frontman in Adam Lambert, The Eagles post-Frey, and now, Journey with Arnel Pineda. Bands are fluid things. They're not museum pieces. They're living, breathing organisms that evolve and adapt. I point this out not to draw attention to Perry's absence, but rather to shush the naysayers who fancy the all-or-nothing approach to classic rock bands. Not for nothing, but Steve Perry wasn't even Journey's first lead singer (that was Gregg Rolie), and now, 15 years into his tenure, Arnel Pineda has been with Journey longer than Perry ever was.

And as anyone who has watched Pineda perform will tell you, he's an inexhaustible and infectious talent, one that burns up the stage in ways that leave little doubt that this man was always meant to do this job. Pineda, along with Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, drummer Deen Castronovo (who has been with the band for nine years) and keyboardist Jason Derlatka (who's been on board for three), cycle through 19 songs in about 90 minutes, resulting in a dizzying tour though rock music's best songs by one of rock's best bands.

There are no complaints setlist-wise, though the mega hits were strewn about in ways that didn't always feel impactful and cohesive. For example, "Don't Stop Believin" was performed third, robbing the song — and the audience — of the anticipation that comes along with knowing you're about to hear one of the greatest songs ever written live. Other hits like "Faithfully," "Lights," "Wheel in the Sky," and "Open Arms" were peppered throughout, though mostly front-loaded as well. As a result, the final quarter of the concert was a bit of a plateau rather than an ascent; as exciting as "Anyway You Want It" is as a closer — particularly when streamers and confetti are raining down — it just doesn't pack the same punch that an encore of "Don't Stop Believin" would.

The high points of the evening were undoubtedly Pineda's vocals, as well as an extended version of "Wheel in the Sky" that highlighted just how top-shelf this band really is. Also incredible were drummer Castronovo's vocals on "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)," one of the most musically impressive moments of the concert. Then there's Neal Schon, who just turned 68, and demonstrates exactly why he's been one of classic rock's great guitar players for nearly the whole of his career. And I have to say, out of all the concerts I've been to, Journey's "Freedom Tour" is without a doubt the loudest, which is not a complaint. In general, it's a flashy and electric celebration of the band and its loyal fans, but also (as the name of the tour suggests) a celebration of a return to normal times, one in which tens of thousands of fans can pack into an arena, pay $15 for a beer, and see their heroes on stage.

The evening was spectacular for another reason, too: We were treated to one hell of an opening act in TOTO. Their solid 10-song set had the crowd perfectly primed for Journey, something they'll continue to do for the duration of the tour, performing infectious, beloved hits like "Hold the Line," "Rosanna," and the much-beloved "Africa."

Bands and tour directors, take note: You really want to have an audience warmed up and sitting on cloud nine for the main event? Closing the opening set with "Africa" will help.

For more on Journey and upcoming dates of their "Freedom" tour, follow this link.