by MIKE CHAIKEN
There was a Journey before there was a Steve Perry. And Journey barely lost a step after the final reunion with its long-time singer. So there’s been plenty of Journey without Perry.
Perry finally parted ways from the rest of the guys in 1997, which was 22 years ago.
However, when you go to a Journey concert, to longtime fans one of the first observations they make is that Perry is no longer with the band.
In one respect, it’s understandable since Perry had been the voice of the group for all of its hits, including “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Who’s Cryin’ Now,” “Open Arms,” “Faithfully,” “Separate Ways,” “Lights,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’”
However, although a lead singer is typically the face of a band, one voice does not make a band.
And truth be told, when Journey came to the Mohegan Sun Arena on Oct. 4, the group is exactly as it was during its biggest commercial years. Long-time leader and founder of the group, Neal Schon, is still slinging his guitar with the group as are keyboardist Jonathan Cain (who helped mastermind a lot of the group’s hitmaking power), bassist Ross Valory, and drummer Steve Smith.
At the Connecticut gig, Journey proved that their instrumental skills are as strong as ever. (This was clearly demonstrated by the solo spotlights taken by Schon, Cain, and Smith during the gig.) The sound on stage had the same chemistry demonstrated on their hit albums, such as the iconic “Escape” and its equally strong follow-up “Frontiers.”
Some in the audience may have pined away for the missing member, but the thing with Journey is that the songs are really the selling point of the group. For the audience, the music of Journey- as evidenced by the out-of-tune voices singing behind me—is about memories and special moments. Also demonstrating the importance of the music was the older couple in front of me who carefully videoed on their iPhone (in loving violation of copyright laws) to preserve some of their favorite tracks to listen in the future, private mementoes of the band.
And the fans wanted to hear the songs.
The group didn’t disappoint, cranking out the top tracks throughout the evening such as the previously mentioned.
Another treat for the evening was the band’s willingness to trot out a couple of deeper tracks, ones that got some airplay but weren’t commercial monsters. “Only the Young” and “Ask the Lonely” were a welcome addition to the Journey experience.
As for the vocals, Arnel Pineda is a worthy lead vocalist. Yes, he sounds like Perry, hitting those trademark high notes, so fans were still getting the songs as the Journey collaborative intended. However, more importantly, the youngest member of the group provided a great deal of energy to the evening. While the rest of the band proved to be master instrumentalists, focusing on the notes and chords, Pineda offered the show showmanship.
Pineda also clearly is a fan of the music. Even though he has been a member of the band for 12 years, he still acted as if he were a recent acolyte to the band’s catalogue. There was a look of delight on his face each time the opening notes of the next track was cued up.
So, there indeed have been changes in Journey since Ronald Reagan was president, but the memories still remain, the skills still remain, and the songs remain.
And Journey’s reputation as a live act clearly was justified throughout the Mohegan Sun show.
I give Journey four out of five stars.