So, first things first. My favorite rock singers are Steve Perry of Journey, Peter Cetera of Chicago, Brad Delp of Boston, Bon Scott of AC/DC, Don Henley of the Eagles and Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses — only two of those listed are playing in somewhat abbreviated versions of their classic line-up bands and two are dead. Cetera and Chicago want nothing to do with one another and Perry has bowed out of public life and has become an enigmatic figure. But the show must go on — just ask the current lineup of Chicago, Boston and, of course, Journey. As Journey’s Jonathan Cain once told me, “The songs are bigger than any one person.”
If you’ve seen Chicago or Boston in recent years, you’ve seen a lean, well-oiled version of the band with people like Jeff Coffey and Tommy DeCarlo knocking the ball out of the park on a nightly basis by filling the large shows of Delp (DeCarlo) and Cetera and Jason Scheff (Coffey).
And Journey are no exception. Arnel Pineda has been singing the songs of Perry for about 10 years now and when they hit The Wharf Amphitheater in Orange Beach, Alabama, on Thursday, his voice filled every inch of my favorite outdoor venue. It was a sticky-hot, sweaty, humid night in LA (Lower Alabama) when Journey rolled into The Wharf. And while, yes, we have grown accustomed to those summer nights in the Deep South, it was seriously hot Thursday night. But you deal with the heat and humidity because The Wharf is lovely, the moon was almost full and Journey played for more than two hours. It was pretty much a perfect night.
Journey — Pineda, Cain, Neal Schon, Ross Valory and Steve Smith — had the crowd on its feet from the opening keyboard riff of the set opener “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” and they did not let off the gas for the duration of the show, which included hits such as “Open Arms,” “Who’s Crying Now,” “Stone In Love” and “Be Good To Yourself.” The band also played a couple of deep cuts such as “Edge of The Blade” from “Frontiers” and “La Do Da” from “Infinity.”
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There’s a defining moment at a Journey show — actually, there are two. The first magical moment comes midway through the set when Schon hits the opening riff to “Lights” and the crowd illuminates the venue with cell phones, all while street scenes of San Francisco play on the large video screen behind the band. It is a seriously magical moment in time.
The second moment, for me, is not the set closer of “Don’t Stop Believin,’” which is pretty amazing, but the song before it. From the time Cain hits the first chords of “Faithfully” to Schon’s scorching guitar solo, it is everything a Journey fan could want.
I was thinking about the first time I heard Journey as I was making the drive to Orange Beach. I clearly remember the two defining moments; the very first time I remember hearing Journey was in the movie “Caddyshack” during a now-iconic scene with Rodney Dangerfield. The song was “Anyway Way You Want It” and I fell in love with it.
My second Journey moment also came before I was a teen. The band’s “Open Arms” was used in a scene involving naked aliens in “Heavy Metal.” There weren’t any “nekkid” aliens during Thursday’s show, but there was that warm, familiar feeling of why I will always be a Journey fan.