Live Review

Journey Provides A Much Needed ‘Escape’

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Journey Provides A Much Needed ‘Escape’

While some popular musical acts benefit from bringing peers in their genre along on the road with them to aid with less than stellar ticket sales or a lack of sufficient hits, some obviously don’t require any help in the field. In these instances, being treated to ‘two for the price of one’ is simply the cherry on top of an already delicious ice cream sundae. Enter Journey.

The San Francisco-bred heavyweights are in the midst of their first full-blown ‘post-pandemic’ jaunt and clearly haven’t missed a beat in the interim. Aptly labeled the Freedom tour (also the expected moniker of the group’s upcoming studio album), the band barreled into the brand-new UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y. on February 25 with a mission: To celebrate all of their fan favorite tunes by powering through as many of them as time would allow in front of an appreciative, rock-starved, capacity crowd.

Opening with the mid-tempo ”Only The Young,” an appropriate choice considering its lead-off position on the group’s 15x Platinum best-selling Greatest Hits disc, followed by the often-overlooked rocker “Stone In Love” off of what is generally considered the band’s masterpiece, 1981’s Escape, fans likely had little inkling of what would come next. Possibly taking a page from America’s pastime, the familiar sounds of longtime keyboardist Jonathan Cain surrounded the venue as it was time for perennial classic “Don’t Stop Believin’.” In baseball, while the three-hole in the batting order is invariably the property of the best all-around hitter on the team, musicians frequently save that seminal honor for the encore, or ultimate spot, to close with. An odd choice, perhaps, but it wasn’t long before everyone was standing and hanging on every word by lead singer Arnel Pineda. Journey never lost that momentum.

Although Pineda’s role as front man unequivocally puts much of the focus on the ridiculously gifted vocalist, it was clear that guitar virtuoso Neal Schon, the only original member remaining, is still the heart of the act. Highlighted by blazing axe work on “Wheel In The Sky,” “Be Good To Yourself,” and “Ask The Lonely,” Schon was on fire, as always. The former Santana player was obviously having a blast and the chemistry between him and Pineda has only gotten stronger since Pineda initially came aboard 15 years ago(!).

As followers know, ballads will always be a pillar of Journey’s extensive catalogue and they were represented well here. Arguably their two biggest, “Faithfully” and “Open Arms,” were spot-on, and sung beautifully by Pineda, no small feat for any singer, especially considering they were originally brought to life by one of rock’s greatest voices ever, Steve Perry.

One improved aspect of the current version of the band is drummer Deen Castronovo. Quietly returning to the fold last year, Castronovo brought an undeniable energy to the performance, accentuated with a moving guest vocal stint on “Mother, Father.” Most recently a member of Australian-American supergroup The Dead Daisies, his aggressive playing is proving to be an intelligent addition.

Inspired by the lengthy COVID-forced layoff, new song “The Way We Used To Be” was a welcome inclusion. It’s not a secret that current tracks by legendary units played live can sometimes signal restroom or concession stand breaks for concertgoers. But this thankfully didn’t suffer that fate and was quite well-received.

It’s exceptionally difficult to pinpoint the zenith of such a powerful set but one would be hard-pressed to vote against the trifecta of “Lights,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” and “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).” Spread out during the 90 minute gig, all three tunes perfectly personified the near-flawless hybrid of melodic rock, refined instrumentation, crisp vocals, and the relatable songwriting known as Journey.

Special guest Toto’s tight, hour long, production was the consummate approach to the start of the night’s activities. The forementioned arena rock staple, led by co-founders Steve Lukather and David Paich, got the evening off to a raucous start with the underrated “Till The End” and was chased by the infectious “Hold The Line,” the quintessential amalgamation of grandiose 1980s style guitar and keyboards, created gloriously by Lukather and Paich, respectively.

The poignant “I Won’t Hold You Back” was a delightful showcase of on and off singer Joseph Williams’ impressive vocals. Although original front man Bobby Kimball is still missed by nostalgic fans, Williams’ impeccable singing quickly erases any longing for anyone else.

Toto’s one-two punch to finish their set proved to be a knockout as “Rosanna” and “Africa” metaphorically blew the roof off of the three-month old arena. Both numbers got the complete sing-along treatment from the amped up crowd and wonderfully set the stage as the perfect appetizer to the main course.

Perhaps the sole complaint of such an exciting show would ultimately be considered selfish of classic rock connoisseurs: Having two guitar prodigies like Schon and Lukather under the same roof without a joint performance. But despite this admittedly facetious criticism , the Freedom Tour 2022 is not to be missed.

Journey setlist:

  1. Only The Young
  2. Stone In Love
  3. Don’t Stop Believin’
  4. Faithfully
  5. Send Her My Love
  6. Ask The Lonely
  7. Who’s Crying Now
  8. Mother, Father
  9. Lights
  10. The Way We Used To Be
  11. Girl Can’t Help It
  12. Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’
  13. Open Arms
  14. Wheel In The Sky
  15. Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
  16. Be Good To Yourself
  17. Any Way You Want It

Toto setlist:

  1. Till The End
  2. Hold The Line
  3. I’ll Be Over You
  4. White Sister
  5. Georgy Porgy
  6. I Won’t Hold You Back
  7. Pamela
  8. Home Of The Brave
  9. Rosanna
  10. Africa

Click here for Journey/Toto tour dates.