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Review: Journey delivers the hits
REVIEW BY SJARIF GOLDSTEIN / firstname.lastname@example.org
Some longtime Journey fans are staying away from this week’s shows at the Blaisdell Arena because of the absence of Steve Perry, the iconic vocalist from their prime years (1978-86).
Those stalwarts are missing out on the next best thing — and “next best” is not far behind the model they know and love.
Led by Arnel Pineda, the Filipino sensation the band discovered on YouTube, the band is as vital as ever, if Wednesday’s opening show was any indicator.
Perry’s voice will never be duplicated, but Pineda showed the crowd of about 6,000 that he’s no slouch, with a powerful voice more than capable of giving Journey’s fans what they want.
The band took the stage with the post-Perry rocker “Never Walk Away” and left it almost two hours later after a satisfying version of their bluesy classic “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.” In between, they delivered almost every hit their fans could want (“Who’s Crying Now” was the most notable exclusion) with renditions true to the hit originals but with enough Pineda flavor that he can’t be accused of being merely a mimic.
The opener was a curious choice, given all the obvious options that are far better known to the band’s fans, but they managed to make it compelling. It helps that the song would fit in fine on most of the band’s ‘80s albums.
The audience didn’t take to other recent songs that were dropped in quite as well, but the band kept such inclusions to a minimum.
Journey followed “Never Walk Away” with “Anyway You Want It,” and the crowd went nuts almost from the opening note.
Pineda and guitarist Neal Schon fed the frenzy by sprinkling in shakas throughout the early numbers. There was no “Thank you, Detroit” from this crew. They knew exactly where they were and showed their joy at playing the Aloha State for the umpteenth time.
The shaka signs were only one element of Pineda’s plan for winning over the crowd. He also used handslaps and singalongs to great effect and made use of every edge of the stage possible, often setting up as close to the adoring fans as possible, for maximum connection. He even raced from side to side trying to involve the audience members in the arena’s upper reaches. Pineda seemed to take the Jeff Bebe approach to the frontman’s duties, even if it sometimes fell flat with the non-hits.
Pineda’s voice showed no sign of his illness that forced the postponement of some mainland shows last month. The band seemed to be making an effort to preserve his voice, giving him breaks while drummer Deen Castronovo and keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Jonathan Cain handled lead vocals.
The most memorable moment when Pineda was offstage was Schon’s solo guitar medley of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Joy to the World” (the Christmas standard, not the Three Dog Night hit).
Schon contributed stellar solos throughout the night, his shredding a reminder that Perry’s voice was not the band’s only signature sound.
A few songs after the national anthem, the concert hit its first high point with “Faithfully,” with Pineda leading the crowd through an “oh-oh-oh-oh” singalong pm the classic life on the road ballot.
After a detour with “Just the Same Way,” sung by Cain, Journey ripped into a two more ballads — “Lights,” with much of the audience providing the light via their cellphones, and “Open Arms,” which is no less an ultimate arena ballad than it was 30 years ago.
From there, Journey turned up the intensity and didn’t let down, eventually leading to the high-NRG foursome of “Be Good to Yourself,” “Wheel in the Sky, “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Separate Ways” to close the shows regular porion with the audience on a high. They came back for a one-song encore (the aforementioned “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” then were off to enjoy Hawaii for a couple of days before their shows this weekend.