Journey – Times Record, Fort Smith, Arkansas

One almost can’t believe how great Journey sounds these days. The rock band with the most-downloaded song in history (“Don’t Stop Believin’”) no longer has “the two Steves” in the lineup — vocalist Steve Perry and drummer Steve Smith have been away from the Journey camp for years — but guitarist Neal Schon, bassist Ross Valory, keyboardist Jonathan Cain, drummer Deen Castronovo and relatively new singer Arnel Pineda displayed an unfaltering passion for the music and the crowd at the BOK Center in Tulsa on Aug. 5.

After letting the audience stand in anticipation for a few minutes in the dark, Journey raced from the starting dock for terrific, edgy versions of “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” and “Only the Young.” The Filipino-born Pineda was all over the stage, zig-zagging between Schon and Valory, tossing the microphone and its stand skyward and, almost miraculously, leaping high into the air for what looked like several seconds of quality hang time.

Schon, who looks like Bruce Springsteen at first glance, grinned as he pulled thick, bending notes from his Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster. He and Valory made eye contact multiple times with fans and news photographers who, along with Pineda’s cheeriness, helped form a positive vibe, which never dipped during the two-hour set.

New songs like “Change for the Better” and “Never Walk Away” were sprinkled among Journey’s must-play cuts “Faithfully,” “Ask the Lonely,” “Lights,” “Wheel in the Sky,” “Escape,” “Dead or Alive” and “Be Good to Yourself,” and the group’s youthful drive and Pineda’s voice never waned.

The 41-year-old Pineda has one mean set of pipes. Journey found Pineda while watching a video of his former band on YouTube, but there’s nothing second-rate about Pineda fronting Journey now. He lives each song emotionally and physically on the stage, treating each verse and chorus as if they were his dying breath.

Looking like preschoolers raiding a large playground for the first time, the band members played every song as fast or faster than the studio originals. They ignored the venue’s numerous empty seats — about a quarter of the BOK Center’s 13,000 seats were vacant — and gave those in attendance a temporary place to flee from everyday stress.

via Times Record, Fort Smith, Arkansas.

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