JOURNEY LIVE IN MANILA (2016)
Featuring Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory, Arnel Pineda and Deen Castronovo.
Directed by Eli Tishberg.
Distributed by Eagle Rock Home Entertainment. 141 minutes. Not Rated.
Of the classic arena rock groups of the 1970s and 1980s – including Journey, Styx, Foreigner, Boston, Kansas, REO Speedwagon, etc. – most are now on the nostalgia tour circuit. However, of those bands, none have their original band lineup. More likely it will be one, or two, or at the most three original members with new group members picked up over the years.
Journey is doing much better than most, with four out of the five members of the group’s glory days still currently involved in the day-to-day running of the group. Created out of the embers of Santana’s Abraxas band, lead guitarist Neal Schon and bassist Russ Valory were part of the original 1973 lineup. Drummer Steve Smith joined in 1978. Jonathan Cain, formerly of The Babys, took over their keyboards in 1980, about a year before the band exploded.
The only holdout, though, was arguably the face of the band in their glory days. Lead singer Steve Perry was not the band’s first singer – former Santana vocalist Gregg Rolie and rocker Robert Fleischman preceded him, and even Schon took a few early lead vocals – but from 1977 until their 1987 hiatus, and again for a few years after the band’s 1995 reunion, it was Perry’s distinctive vocals that changed Journey from a journeyman group who would have an occasional minor hit single and a cult following to international superstars. However, Perry jumped ship for good in 1998, surprisingly essentially walking away from music, popping up every once in a while, just to stay in the game. (In 2005, Perry shocked all his old bandmates by showing up unannounced for the unveiling of their star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.)
In the years since Perry left, Journey went through a few other lead vocalists – mostly notable for their “is it live or is it Memorex?” quality of imitating Perry’s distinctive vocals. Finally, in 2007, they settled on Filipino lead vocalist Arnel Pineda – a relative unknown who was discovered doing Journey covers on the internet. If that backstory sounds familiar, it’s because this has happened with several bands over the years, starting with Judas Priest and also other groups like Boston. There was also a movie made on this premise, Mark Wahlberg in Rock Star, loosely based on the Judas Priest story. However, while Pineda’s vocals are again note-perfect mimics of Perry’s soaring rock yelps, the new singer made a charismatic front man who has now been with the band for almost as long as Perry was.
Live in Manila is a 2009 concert – already seven years old, and with a slightly different lineup than the current band, featuring long-time (1998-2015) Journey Mark II member Deen Castronovo on drums – but it gives you a deep-dive-look at the updated edition of Journey, in their strengths (and occasional weaknesses). Made up of two audio CDs, as well as a Blu-ray video version of the same performances, it is a wealth of riches for a Journey fan. However, you don’t have to be as big of a Journey-head as Will Schuster from Glee to appreciate this scorching new millennial equivalent of a live album.
This generous 26-song set list hits most of the band’s hits (and for about a decade Journey was a hit singles machine) and also gives an impressive selection of album tracks and rarities. The band still sounds tight and loose, riding some AOR riffs in the rambunctious “Only the Young,” and “Stone in Love.” The sweet love ballad “Open Arms” is still undoubtedly one of the best rock ballads of the era, reminiscent of many a smoochy summer night. And “Lights” is not far behind it in the best ballads list.
By the lighter-raising finale with crowd faves like “Don’t Stop Believing” (still a great song, if way, way overplayed), “Any Way You Want It,” “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'” and “Be Good to Yourself,” the excitement of the Manila crowd is infectious.
For the casual fan, is there any reason to replace your Greatest Hits: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 CDs with this concert set? Or even any one of the three live albums that feature original vocalist Perry: Captured, Greatest Hits Live or Live in Houston 1981 (which is also available on video)? Probably not. It’s a slightly disorienting experience to see a different vocalist who sounds just like the old one, almost like you are watching Journey being turned into their own tribute band.
However, credit where it is due: Journey still sounds damned tight, and Pineda’s vocals are dead ringers for the originals. If you close your eyes, it sounds like 1983 all over again.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 19, 2016.