Words and Pictures: Robert Cavuoto
Journey immediately set the bar high on Wednesday, June 13th at the greatest venue in the world, Madison Square Garden, for their co-headline tour with Def Leppard!
Journey was energetic and clearly in touch with their audience’s desire to hear their hit songs. The time-traveling experience covered most of the MTV video years from their three seminal albums; Escape , Frontiers , and Raised on Radio . Journey remains a no-nonsense rock band that has written some of the biggest hits of our generation. Neal Schon [guitar], Jonathan Cain [piano/guitar], Steve Smith [drums], Ross Valory [bass] Arnel Pineda [vocal] continue to have undeniable chemistry when it comes to performing.
The band opened with “Separate Ways” and dove directly into the MTV-fueled years with a smoldering version of “Only the Young.” Nothing could be more perfect or impressive to kick the show off.
Neal Schon is one rock’s most influential guitarist, yet his playing has never been flashy or excessive. He has always played tastefully bringing melody into every song. It was evident when fans at Madison Square Garden were singing along to his guitar solos! During one of his extended solos, he incorporated different playing techniques that showcase his classical, shredding and blues abilities. Before the show, I asked Neal about how his playing encompasses so many different styles of music yet is instantly recognizable. He replied, “I’m inspired by many musicians and listen to all kinds of music. From there I began to discover my own style and my voice through the guitar. It started happening more when I got into writing songs in Journey with Steve Perry. The discipline of trying to write a 3 ½–minute songs and then make them musical is not an easy task. Back in the Infinity era, I decided my guitar was going to be an extension of the vocals.”
Arnel is an incredibly talented singer, and frontman who used every inch of the stage included the extended runway to entertain the crowd. At one point, he ran off stage and did a quick lap on the floor of MSG. He sang with an air of confidence while continually smiling and high-fiving fans as if they were old friends. He delivered what fans came for and drew the audience into the show and the music.
In Journey’s rhythm section is Ross Valory on bass and Steve Smith on drums. Steve is recognized as one of the world’s best drummers. Together they put an unflinching “beat down” on all the tunes allowing Neal to soar on guitar.
It was awe-inspiring to hear Jonathan play piano live. He is an amazingly talented musician whose writing style has made a lifelong connection with listeners due to his songs about love, pain, heartbreak, and romance. He has penned some of Journey biggest hits like “Open Arm,” “Don’t Stop Believin,” and “Faithfully” which were all performed tonight. He even dedicated “Faithfully” to all the men and woman in the armed services. During several songs like “Wheel in the Sky,” he doubled on guitar.
The spotlight was on the hits as the band made their way from the soulful “Lights” to the rocking “Any Way You Want It” and “Stone in Love.” Fans were on their feet singing and dancing thought-out the show, but the song that blew the roof off the Garden came late in the set with “Don’t Stop Believin.” With so many hits even the casual fans in attendance knew almost every as they were the soundtrack to our youth. I asked Jonathan about the timelessness of Journey’s songs. He replied, “What separated Journey from other bands of that era was that our music sounded effortless; from the rhythm section to the vocals to the guitar. It just sounded like it was easy; it was easy to listen to music. It wasn’t bombastic and had a beautiful sheen.”
Madison Square Garden was loud; the band looked great and gave an outstanding performance. The connection the fans felt to the band’s almost 45-year career catalog has been instantaneous. It was great to see Journey carrying on and continuing to cement their legacy as Rock & Roll Hall of Famers.