Journey at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 5/23/2014
Photos by Jim Bricker
Journey Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion May 23, 2014
"Helllllooooo Dallllllaaaaaasssssssss!!!" proclaimed Journey front man Arnel Pineda as he made his way to the stage. "Dallllllaaaassssss!!!!", he shouted again. A cacophony of screams came from all around the nearly sold-out Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, "Hoooouuuuuussssssttttttooooonnnnn!!!"
Not a good start, guys. Thankfully, Houston gets blasted with the Dallas bomb on a semi-regular basis so we're pretty much used to it at this point. A lady in the front row was already ready with a business card emblazoned with the bolded letters H-O-U-S-T-O-N scratched into the back of it in pen. As Pineda realized his mistake after taking a look at the card, his face immediately dropped with light-hearted embarrassment.
Thankfully by that time, he had already re-earned the crowd's trust of the venue as he ran from left to right and back again while fist-pounding the front row and shouting the lyrics of "Be Good to Yourself" as far as his voice could reach. Which, by the end of the show, he proved was pretty damn far.
Let's just start off by saying that I've never seen Journey, nor have I really ever craved to. Not that I don't like their music; they were just always that band that played in the background at parties in my high-school years. Later they became that band that everyone shouted every lyric to when a cover band played "Don't Stop Believin'" in some shitty bar. I guess that could be a reason for my lack of need to see the '70s rockers.
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But that never swayed me from enjoying their music. Everyone had their own dance moves to "Any Way You Want It," "Wheel In the Sky" is the jam and "Anytime" as well. And who can't help swaying along with their lighters in the air during "Faithfully?" I know I can't.
But they were just never my favorite band. Or even close for that matter. I'm not sure if anyone really could list them as theirs, either. I'm sure I'll hear about it in the comments if otherwise, but really -- whose favorite band is Journey?
That's like saying your favorite current band is LMFAO. Yeah, you danced and sang along to a few of their songs at the last wedding you went to, but you're not going home and rocking their record. Are you? When was the last time you honestly played "Don't Stop Believin'" because you really just wanted to hear it? Never.
But, when the time is right, that's the best tune ever written. You have to be in the moment to enjoy Journey, and thankfully 15,000 of us were all there on Friday night. With a perfect sunset warmup set from the legendary Steve Miller Band that touched on classics like "The Joker," "Rock'n Me," "Fly Like an Eagle" and "Take The Money and Run," the crowd was ripe and ready for a solid classic-rock performance from the headliners.
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And once you get past the fact that Journey are not necessarily the same band that formed out of the old Santana band long before Carlos met Rob Thomas, and realize they have somewhat become a shell of what they used to be, they ended up rocking. Rocking pretty hard, for that matter.
The mixed-bag crowd easily ingested what they were served by the group, one that features only two of the guys who were around at the beginning of the band's "journey." Neil Schon made his place known, rocking solo after solo including a ripping take on "The Star-Spangled Banner." Bassist Ross Valory strutted around stage dropping bomb after bomb while Schon looked on like it was their first time playing together.
Drummer Deen Castronovo, who built his career playing with Social Distortion, Ozzy Osborne and Steve Vai, has been a regular force in the band since the late '90s; and Jonathan Cain, Journey's longest-tenured non-original member, fought his way through the set on keys and rhythm. Only Pineda is truly new to the fold, and while he has a lot to overcome as the new guy, his vocal chops speak for themselves.
He also brings a new energy to the band that former vocalist Steve Perry was lacking towards the end of his tenure in the band. While Perry was the one who popularized the songs with his voice, his presence in the band was eventually tired and worn. Pineda brought the band back to life, which you could tell within seconds of their taking the stage.
Which is something that was necessary if Journey were to continue on without Perry. They proved that they're not the old parody of their former selves, and could actually continue their path of making multitudes of fans happy. There was a reason they pulled so many people out to The Woodlands on Friday, and it was not just their storied discography.
What really brought the crowds was their ability to rock a stage no matter who was in the band or how played-out the songs might be.They have the ability to keep doing it, so why not? And it doesn't seem like it's just for the paycheck. They really seem to enjoy themselves onstage, which is the biggest prize of all. For a bunch of geezers to have that much fun playing the songs they've been playing for years says a whole lot about who they are as a band. Which made this show all that much more enjoyable.
Personal Bias: Hold on to that feeeellllayiaaingggggg!!!
The Crowd:: A whole lot of vintage Journey shirts, both purposeful and accidental.
Overheard In the Crowd: What could have been described as seizure-like noises coming from the overly excited girl next to me when the familiar chords of "Don't Stop Believing" started.
Random Notebook Dump: Did you know that Randy Jackson of American Idol fame was once the full-time bassist for Journey? I didn't either until Wikipedia told me that the other day.
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