Journey at Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, AZ

Coverage/Photos By: Andrew Millett

 

Nostalgia was thick in the air of the Journey concert. Surrounded by fans young and old, Journey has carried their music into the hearts of younger generations. It’s also incredible to see all but Steve Perry of the original band from the Escape, Frontiers and Trial by Fire albums. It’s musical history on stage.
Lead vocalist Arnel Pineda worked the stage the entire show. He was full of energy, constantly running, jumping, clapping and interacting with the crowd. Being the youngest member, Pineda seems to shoulder almost all of the responsibility of getting the crowd excited as an entertainer. As a side note clearly paid attention to learning Journey’s music – not only can he copy Steve Perry’s vocal tone, but also copied Perry’s vocal techniques that can be heard on their albums. You could close your eyes and wouldn’t know which you were listening to, Pineda or Perry.

Lead Guitarist Neal Schon is phenomenal to watch. He plays memorable and iconic guitar melodies recognized anywhere such as in ‘Faithfully’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believin’. He flavored his solos with technique and creative use of the whammy bar during complicated solos, such as ‘Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)’ but would sing and trade melodies comfortably with the singer in rock ballads such as ‘Open Arms’. Even in the midst of a solo, he would quickly toss his guitar pick into the crowd without skipping a beat. He loves the stage and the fans. This concert would appeal to guitarists and guitar lovers as solos would extend for minutes multiple times throughout the show, something not typically seen with .
Steve Smith wowed the crowd with his drum magic. The band left the stage except for Steve and he showed his drumming prowess for about 5-10 minutes. The first solo ended and the lights came down, and you expected the band to return, but then he erupted in another drum solo. After the second solo, he started doing some “magic tricks” on the drums, balancing one drum stick on fingers and arm while using the other stick to hit it and create a beat or using one stick to create another beat and switching hands without any noticeable pause. Pineda called him the magician as the band took the stage again.

Keyboardist Jonathan Cain was the only other band member aside from Pineda to speak to the crowd. The band exited the stage and the lights went dark aside from a spotlight on Cain. While playing piano, he told a heartfelt story of how he wrote a song while on a tour bus heading to Saratoga Springs, New York. After a few minutes of story telling, the band re-entered the stage to play ‘Faithfully’.

Bassist Ross Valory defining feature is being with the band since the beginning (along with Neal Schon). There isn’t much to say as he doesn’t get much attention on stage, aside from one or two times walking to the front during a more prominent bass part. His backing vocals are a great compliment to Pineda. Although he doesn’t get much attention or any time to interact with the crowd, he helps create the nostalgia experience just with his presence.
Something I appreciated out of Journey’s performance, is their ability to create significant emotional up and downs. They have a variety of hits they scatter throughout their concert to make it flow like a roller coaster; high energy rock songs where the crowd explodes to their feet such as “Any Way You Want It”, but also rock ballads where the crowd sways, pulls out their lighters and phones, and kisses one another in front of the kiss cam. Journey’s writing ability has carried them well into the present.

Journey is definitely worth seeing – at least once. The incredible musicianship is something you’d expect from seasoned veterans in their respective instruments. It’s a bit of a time warp, as you go back and experience huge hits from decades ago with their album covers displayed on a large screen behind them. They don’t have quite the stage presence and light shows like some of the biggest pop/rock bands of today, nor the energy they probably once did, but it’s an experience in musical talent and awe to witness one of the greatest influences on modern rock to come out of the 70’s.

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