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by Ryan Snyder

Journey’s new face a surprising Revelation

There’s a better likelihood that the Taliban and National Organization for Women reach common ground than hardcore Journey fans and those who vehemently dislike the radio darlings of the 1980s. Nearly three decades of radio saturation have completely soured just as many on hits like “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Any Way You Want It” as it has produced legions of diehard fans. Their music is as emotive as it is cheesy and I’ll be up front with which side of the fence I sit on, as I’ve been forced to cast off more than a few respectable drinking holes because of their insistence on building playlists around the Escape and Frontiers albums. With that said, I came into their Sept. 18 performance at the Greensboro Coliseum with zero expectations of satisfaction and came away reasonably pleased.

Though only guitarist Neil Schon and bassist Ross Valory remaining from the original lineup, Journey has maintained the same crisp, accessible sound that earned them eight multi-platinum albums from the late ’70s through the ’80s. The newest face, of course, is vocalist Arnel Pineda, who was, coincidentally, just a small-town boy living in a lonely Philippine world before Schon discovered him via a YouTube video, where he was performing with his cover band the Zoo.

It was Pineda’s striking charisma and immaculate Steve Perry vocal reproduction that won him the spot and he wasn’t shy about demonstrating either Friday night.

From the moment that Journey opened with “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” the deceptively boyish-looking Pineda (he’s really 42) was a ball of energy with a complete arsenal of rock-star moves at his disposal. When he wasn’t launching himself off of every riser available, he was dashing from one end of the stage to the other and thrusting his mic stand skyward like a lightning rod, all the while maintaining remarkable vocal poise. He had solid chemistry with the band, though the rest seemed content to simply step back and let Pineda work his mojo for the majority of the show. There were a few solos interspersed into the set, as Schon gave a deft, but slightly out-of-placeshred that didn’t cleanly segue into “Stoned in Love” and Valory’sharmonica solo later left a little to be desired.

It’s almost as if Journey’s first three albums never happened, as no material from any of Journey, Look Into the Future or Next foundits way into the show, though most fans probably prefer it that way.They played the hits, with three songs from their newest and only albumwith Pineda, Revelation, all of which sounded just as dated asthe classic material. Yet, behind Pineda’s powerful voice, they playedthem as faithfully as possible, with only slight variation. There was,however a minor incongruity with “Lights,” as Schon interjected anawkward guitar outro just as Pineda had settled it vocally.

Thoughthe initial exhilaration created by Pineda’s vibrant stage presence hadbegun to wear off and the acrobatics seemed tired, the 80-minute setended vigorously, beginning with

“Wheelin the Sky” and transitioning into pianist Jonathan Cain masterfullyworking the crowd into a lull before unloading the opening notes to“Faithfully.” Jukebox staples “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Any Way YouWant It” would follow to close the set out. A bluesy prelude introducedthe final number “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin,’” but with shows at thecoliseum consistently ending just before 11 p.m., it was disappointingto see the band coming back out for a one-song encore before 10:30 p.m.It was a little understandable that they retired early, however, asPineda surely expended an enormous amount of energy through hisincessant vaulting. I’m not going to rush out and buy their greatesthits, nor will I be dropping any quarters to hear “Open Arms,” butJourney can still put on a pretty respectable show thanks to theirmagnetic front man.

Journey’sNeil Schon (background) resurrects old licks behind new frontman ArnelPineda who, coincidentally, was just a small-town boy when the bandfound him on YouTube. (photo by Ryan Snyder)

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