London Hammersmith Apollo, 17 June 2008
Photos by Kristi Nathan
Journey have taken the London bus principle to extremes- after not touring the
UK for 26 years, the AOR legends made their third trip in as many years and with
a third different singer. Jeff Scott Soto's summary dismissal may have left a
nasty taste in the mouth but in Arnel Pineda, Journey have gone back to a singer
that can replicate the vintage sound of Steve Perry's vocals.
Any doubts about the ability of this Filipino former covers band singer to cut
the mustard were dispelled the moment he raced onto the stage with a huge smile
on his face and worked the whole crowd as they opened with the opening cut from
new album Revelation, Never Walk Away.
With him, Journey appear to have the best of all worlds- a Perry influenced
singer who copes with ease with Journey classics such as Separate Ways, Only the
Young, Stone in Love and Ask the Lonely, but bringing the energy that Soto did
to an otherwise static band hardly in the first flush of youth.
Not only did Neal Schon gave a masterclass with his fluent guitar runs and
extended solos that pushed songs to their limit while maintaining complete
control, he visibly seemed to be enjoying himself which is not always the case.
Furthermore, as well as impressing with his powerhouse drumming, Deen Castronovo
also impressed with his own Perry impressions during Keep on Runnin' and Open
Arms, giving Arnel a well-deserved rest.
Journey gigs are always characterised by the 'dirty dozen' of their best known
hits but what was most impressive this time was the seamless way five new cuts
from Revelation, including Change for the Better, Wildest Dream and Where did I
lose your love, nestled into the set.
Album tracks like Chain Reaction, with a great extended solo from Neal, and Edge
of the Blade allowed Arnel to show he is not just a ballad singer, though on the
evidence of a moving Faithfully that is where his real strengths lie.
And talking of ballads, new song After All These Years is an instant classic and
lost nothing in comparison with the classics Who's Cryin Now and Open Arms.
A minor quibble though was that much of their 70's work, Raised on Radio and any
other post-reformation albums were entirely ignored, with Escape, Frontiers and
the new album comprising 90% of the set.
But who really cares when you are part of a whole crowd including the balcony on
its feet singing along to set closer Don't Stop Believin', with encores of
Escape and Anyway You Want it ending 2 hours of the finest melodic rock you
could wish to see. A very special night.
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