Journey at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Paul Wellman

Journey at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Journey and Styx at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Rockin’ to the Way-Back Sounds of Two Hit-Making Bands

Last Tuesday proved a gorgeous evening, and the Bowl’s capacity crowd was more than ready to rock to the way-back sounds of two hit-making bands from 20 years ago — Journey and Styx. The Chicago-formed prog-rock band Styx gave a tight, hour-long set, performing hits like “The Grand Illusion,” “Too Much Time on My Hands,” and the lovely arena ballad “Lady.” Original member Tommy Shaw led the charge with the vivacity of a newcomer, and the band displayed the chops of truly seasoned players. This they proved unequivocally with a spot-on rendition of the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.”

Next up was Journey. Once I recovered from the auditory and visual disconnect of current lead singer Arnel Pineda — whose voice booms despite his small stature — it was easy to be wowed by how good it all came across. Yes, he sounds nearly identical to Steve Perry, which is impressive enough, but Pineda’s talent doesn’t end at just mimicking the legendary singer’s vocals; he has a rich, sensuous timbre that brings a new level of grace to Journey’s classics. His nuanced vocals were especially evident on the ballads: Pineda’s voice on “Faithfully” was utterly gorgeous. With the band’s original guitarist Neal Schon and bassist Ross Valory, classically trained keyboardist Jonathan Cain, and drummer Deen Castronovo, Pineda was backed by tip-top pros who served up both wicked licks and killer beats.

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