Journey Keep It Simple and Glorious at Smart Financial Centre
Photo by Eric Sauseda

Journey Keep It Simple and Glorious at Smart Financial Centre

Journey, Asia
Smart Financial Centre
July 12, 2017

Bands don’t need a narrative, but a narrative helps. You can get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame without one, I guess, but giving people a reason to continue talking about you, keeping your name in the public’s mind, is not the worst idea. Journey has narrative for days, so much so that I’m not going to bother rehashing it, because if you’re reading this, there’s no way you don’t know, at least in broad strokes, the story of singer Arnel Pineda.

It’s a shame, though, that the story is often framed as “Journey needed a singer as good as Steve Perry” when it should have been “Journey needed a singer that could hang with one of the most talented bands in rock history.” Sure, 14 different people have been in Journey at one time or another, but the Schon/Valory/Smith/Cain lineup is something special, as evidenced by their first trip to Smart Financial Centre.

Journey Keep It Simple and Glorious at Smart Financial Centre
Photo by Eric Sauseda

It was a classic-rock show for classic-rock fans, leaning more toward tight performances with healthy doses of self-indulgence instead of production magic. Yes, that’s code for “there were four different solos throughout the night, including two different guitar solos.” Why Ross Valory didn’t get a moment in the spotlight remains a mystery.

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It’s always impressive when a band can open with a song other bands would close their set with, but “Separate Ways” was just the first of many songs that would have fans up on their feet and going bonkers. “Lights,” “Faithfully” and “Any Way You Want It” all got their share of big pops, although I expected the reaction to “Don’t Stop Believing” to be a little more deafening.

Perhaps by the end of the night the crowd had feasted on too much of a good thing. Other than that second guitar solo, which went on far too long for its place in the set, the show was everything you might want if your primary interest in going to a concert was escapism. Fitting, in a way, because if you told me you think Journey is the greatest pop-rock band of all time, I don’t think I’d disagree.

Journey Keep It Simple and Glorious at Smart Financial Centre
Photo by Eric Sauseda

So, How Was the Opener?: As someone who spent many a night in college listening to prog rock records, it was awesome that Asia was on this tour and I got to experience an honest-to-God Carl Palmer drum solo. The man is still a beast behind the kit. Obviously, “Heat of the Moment” was the big song of the set, but “Video Killed the Radio Star” – Geoff Downes was also in The Buggles – was a delight, because seeing a drummer with two gongs as part of his kit playing a New Wave song is my aesthetic.

Personal Bias: I think thatgamecompany’s Journey video game is way better than Bally Midway’s. Girl Talk’s decision to mash up “Faithfully” and “International Players Anthem” was genius.

Journey Keep It Simple and Glorious at Smart Financial Centre
Photo by Eric Sauseda

The Crowd: I don’t know if they were being sold at the merch stands or if a radio station was handing them out, but there were a ton of people holding up fake lighters at different parts of the show, which sounds dumb when written down but was kind of neat in practice.

Overheard In the Crowd: “It’s a fucking Journey concert…if not now, when?” yelled one lady at a group of dudes in front of her, apparently upset they weren’t having a good enough time.

Random Notebook Dump: I know plenty of artists use teleprompters, they just tend to keep them hidden away; this was the first show that I can remember being at where the normally “hidden” prompters were visible when they’d cut to a camera shot behind the band. Singing, reading and playing an instrument at the same time sounds exhausting.

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