Lead singer Arnel Pineda delivers the voice for Journey at Van Andel Arena concert – MLive.com

He hit the really high notes, he held out the really long notes, and he confidently rode the challenging vocal rollercoaster ride of “Lights,” “Open Arms” and “Wheel in the Sky.”

But mostly, lead singer Arnel Pineda made a convincing case for why he’s a bona fide, full-fledged member of classic rock’s Journey … maybe even the star of the show. Because while many of the 8,000-plus fans cheering on the band in Van Andel Arena on Tuesday were there to revel in the nostalgia of pop hits such as “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Any Way You Want It” and others came to see founding guitarist Neal Schon’s flamboyant musicianship, most also were curious to know how in the world a 41-year-old Filipino could fill the shoes — and replace the vocal cords — of Steve Perry, one of the most distinctive voices of the power ballad-era of the late ’70s and ’80s.

Well, the newest member of this band answered the question, met the challenge, hit the mark and filled in the blanks of whatever other cliche you choose. Schon had raved to me in a recent phone interview that Pineda “has got some pipes,” plus an “amazing” versatility that allows him to convey not just Journey songs, but everything from Led Zeppelin to Sting.

On Tuesday, Pineda conveyed Journey’s cavalcade of greatest hits not only with chilling accuracy but with boundless stage energy, acrobatic leaps off of speakers and drum platforms and an endearing rapport with an audience that treated him like part of the family, even if most had never seen him perform before.

With his glittery tennis shoes sparkling in the stage lights, Pineda impressed fans from the opening song, “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).” Schon, meanwhile, displayed his arena-rock flashiness and dexterity on guitar as the band swung virtually nonstop through the first several songs of the night — “Only the Young,” “Stone In Love,” “Never Walk Away,” “Ask the Lonely.”

Granted, despite its enduring popularity and the renewed interest in its music by teens and 20-somethings, Journey has rightly earned some knocks for being a one-trick band, meshing classic and prog-rock elements with upbeat and sappy love balladry in a semi-pretentious sort of display.

But make no mistake. These guys — Schon, Pineda, keyboard player/guitarist Jonathan Cain, bassist Ross Valory and drummer Deen Castronovo — comprise a fine-tuned operation, with Schon and Cain, in particular, giving fans the kind of jamming and instrumental fire they adore. The pair’s inspired interplay on an extended intro to “Wheel in the Sky,” with Schon on a 12-string guitar and Cain on harmonica turned what could have been a routine rendition of one of their oldest hits into a highlight of the evening.

Even detractors would have to concede that Journey does what it does very well, with Pineda giving the band that Red Bull kick of extra energy.

(On a side note, the ever-resurgent Journey — which recently was honored as having the most downloaded song in digital music history (“Don’t Stop Believin’ “) — heads to New York City for a live performance Friday morning on CBS-TV’s “The Early Show.” The band also filmed interviews in Grand Rapids Tuesday for an upcoming documentary about Detroit’s Cobo Hall/Arena, where Journey has performed in the past.)

via Lead singer Arnel Pineda delivers the voice for Journey at Van Andel Arena concert – MLive.com.

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