Review: Night Ranger and Journey at Frank Erwin Center | Austin Music Source

By V.M. Black | Wednesday, September 30, 2009, 01:28 PM

On Tuesday evening at the Frank Erwin Center, legacy rock act Journey – and their formidable new frontman Arnel Pineda – went a long way toward winning over fans who questioned whether the diminutive Filipino national with the booming tenor could compete with the near-incomparable vocal prowess of Journey’s former frontman, Steve Perry.

Journey re-entered popular culture when their signature song “Don’t Stop Believing” slow-burned as the soundtrack to the Sopranos’ series finale, and again recently when the cast of the new hit show “Glee” performed an exquisitely arranged cover of the song. The wake of those impressions in the national consciousness – alongside steady touring, new recordings, DVD packages and the reinvigorated band chemistry with Pineda – have given the band the opportunity to fill amphitheaters and small arenas like the Theatre at the Erwin Center.

The line-up was three parts classic, two parts new, including founding members guitarist Neal Schon and bassist Ross Valory, classic line-up keyboardist Jonathan Cain, semi-new drummer/vocalist Deen Castronovo and Pineda.

Echoing the power of the Frontiers tour I attended as an impressionable bright-eyed 12-year-old at the Erwin Center on July 5, 1983, the band began Tuesday evening’s retrospective music odyssey with “Separate Ways.” A few songs later, by the time Schon’s tasty guitar licks launched “Stone In Love,” the audience were on their feet, fist-pumping and hip-shaking their way through lyrics about the tribulations of young love, seemingly paralleled by their own memories of the same.

Pineda’s story must be recounted because it’s so damned compelling, truly an “American dream” story. The Filipino vocalist learned to sing from his mother, who died of cancer when he was a young teen. The cost of her medical bills bankrupted his family, and by his late teens he was collecting scrap metal on the streets of Manila, living in poverty while going days without food.

Cut to 20 years later when he received a call from his rock heroes after Schon viewed him performing Journey songs on YouTube with his cover band in Manila. After a three-day audition, Journey had conquered the seemingly unimaginable task of finding a voice that possessed the same soaring soul of Perry.

Both Pineda and drummer Castronovo (who sang lead on a couple of songs), astounded on “Lights” (including a soaring middle-eight from Schon), “Open Arms,” “Wheel in the Sky,” “Faithfully,” set-closing showstopper “Don’t Stop Believing” and encore “Anyway You Want It.” All the while Schon altered his blurry-fast guitar solos, initiating in different places of the scale from the recordings, shredding through middle-eight bridges with heart-soaring passion.

Schon also initiated one of the most poignant moments of the show as he highlighted the band’s San Francisco origins story, describing how his bandmates used to pick him up after high school to go jam, which led to his stint in Santana and the creation of Journey. Then Schon called up Journey founding member (and Austinite) Gregg Rolie to the stage for an inspired version of “Just the Same Way” with Rolie singing lead as if he’d never left the band.

Night Ranger opened the show with its 1980s muscular hits and power ballads, but in retrospect even their spot-on version of “Sister Christian” proved more bathos than beatific pathos compared to Journey’s one hour and 50 minute commanding performance.

via Review: Night Ranger and Journey at Frank Erwin Center | Austin Music Source.

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