80’s superstars Journey rocked a packed Rogers Arena Saturday night, delivering a solid (albeit unspectacular) show chockfull of classics from their four-decade-long career.
Despite countless lineup changes and no major hits for decades, Journey continues to be one of rock music’s top touring acts (2012’s Eclipse tour grossed more than $65 million). It’s been three long years since they last played our city and Vancouver fans welcomed them with open arms last night. And with open wallets too – the line to buy vintage-style Journey t-shirts at the merch table was almost as long as the line for beer.
The smell of wine, cheap perfume and lots of weed smoke filled the arena as the band opened with “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”. The audience breathed a collective sigh of relief when singer Arnel Pineda delivered his first couple of notes – the kid can sing. He’s not a dead ringer for Steve Perry but no one is, unfortunately.
Pineda, a Filipino cover singer the band discovered on YouTube, is the sixth(!) person to sing lead vocals for Journey since their inception in 1973. The group has recorded two albums of new material with Pineda at the helm but ignored them completely Saturday night in favour of tunes from the Steve Perry era (one clunker from 1996’s “reunion” album Trial By Fire somehow made the cut).
The boys powered their way through a slew of jukebox favourites like “Only The Young” and “Who’s Crying Now” while thousands of fans faithfully screamed along. Pineda strutted, posed, high-fived audience members and sang his little heart out while his bandmates tried their best to keep up. They didn’t always succeed, however.
A piano solo by Jonathan Cain sounded lovely and guitarist Neal Schon’s “O Canada” had the crowd on it’s feet, but when the band jammed together, their playing sounded a little sloppy at times. Deen Castronovo, Journey’s drummer since 1998, was replaced at the last minute due to legal troubles and it was reported that the new lineup had just days to rehearse together before kicking off their tour last Monday.
There was very little interaction amongst the band as well, and almost none between them and Pineda. It was a stark contrast to the lovefest I witnessed between Queen & temporary lead singer Adam Lambert on their killer tour last summer.
But Journey weren’t exactly chatty with the crowd, either. Pineda used the breaks between songs to say “Vancouver!!” a couple dozen times while Cain gave a painfully boring speech about writing “Faithfully” that sounded like he was reading it from a teleprompter.
But Vancouver was clearly in the mood to party, and the place went nuts for anthems like “Wheel In The Sky” and “Any Way You Want It”. Love (and more weed smoke) was in the air for “Don’t Stop Believin” too – couples danced in the aisles while the lady next to me used FaceTime to share the moment with her bored-looking kids. Guess they aren’t streetlight people like their awesome mom.