With more than 35 years of recording and touring under their collective belt, the main obstacle for rock gods like Journey is keeping such a historic catalogue of music fresh and exciting. Fortunately, the band’s members were able to do just that-while still looking to have as much fun as the audience-during their show last Friday night at the Bowl.
Openers Night Ranger set the tone early for what would be a night of power ballads and piercing guitar solos. After pint-sized frontman Jack Blades belted through “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” and drummer Kelly Keagy sang “Sister Christian” (and earned a standing ovation in the process), Journey stormed the stage with “Separate Ways.” The latest addition to the band, vocalist Arnel Pineda, immediately put to rest any concerns that this new lineup would be lacking without Steve Perry, sprinting around the stage and serenading the crowd with pitch-perfect renditions of Journey’s best-known hits. Pineda-discovered after videos of his performances of Journey songs were seen by the band’s guitarist on YouTube-brought immense energy and passion to the show, walking a fine line between spot-on Perry impersonator and simply epic performer.
Throughout their high-energy set, Journey showcased the power ballads and guitar riffs that made them famous. Axman Neal Schon took center stage for the last moments of almost every song for shredding sessions that would have made Marty McFly quake in his Nikes, or at least turn up the volume in the DeLorean. It certainly was a night of nostalgia, whether attendees were reminiscing about attending a Journey show back in the band’s glory days of the early ’80s or remembering blasting Escape on their parents’ turntable. Without a doubt, it proved that the Bowl is surprisingly well-suited for pulsating arena rock, and that the rock stars of yesterday provide excellent motivation for today’s Guitar Hero fanatics.
As they closed with crowd-pleasers “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Anyway You Want It,” the audience was reminded of the joy of Journey’s brand of power-pop done right. Heck, even the ushers were dancing and singing along.