Rock

Journey revives classic rock at the Nutter Center

By Alan Sculley

Photo: Journey’s (l-r) Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory, Arnel Pineda, Neal Schon, and Steve Smith dust off the hits at the Nutter Center April 4; photo: Travis Shinn
 

Journey is back on the road this winter, with Steve Smith returning on drums and with Arnel Pineda singing songs that former vocalist Steve Perry made famous in the late 1970s and early ’80s (as well as other material).

Plenty of people wish Perry would return to Journey. And for his part, guitarist Neal Schon maintains he’d welcome Perry if he wants to perform with the band.

But according to Schon, one thing Perry fans shouldn’t count on as a motivation to bring about a Perry/Journey reunion is the lure of a lucrative tour.

“You know what people don’t understand is that we couldn’t even possibly be doing better right now even if [Perry] was with us,” Schon says. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to build it back up, but you know what, we’re here again. We’re sitting there. And management is the first one to tell me it couldn’t possibly be bigger.”

The fact is, Schon is perfectly happy with Journey as things stand. And there’s little reason for him to think otherwise.

As he mentioned, Journey has done what many considered highly unlikely—if not downright impossible—by regaining its stature as one of rock’s most bankable arena and outdoor amphitheatre headlining bands—despite the absence of Perry, who sang the band’s many hits (“Open Arms,” “Any Way You Want It,” “Who’s Crying Now,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’,” to name a few).

The rest of the Journey lineup is now the same as the one that recorded the band’s two biggest albums, 1981’s Escape (which sold 10 million copies) and 1983’s Frontiers—with Schon on guitar, Jonathan Cain on keyboards, Ross Valory on bass and Smith, who handled drums from 1978 to 1985 and 1995 to 1998, back on board, replacing Deen Castronovo.

(Castronovo was fired from Journey after his indictment last June on multiple charges of domestic violence. The drummer has since gone through rehab for alcohol and drug problems that have plagued him at various points during his musical career.)

The group has released four albums since Perry’s departure—Arrival (2001),” Generations (2005), Revelation (2008), and Eclipse (2011). Some band members have balked at doing any further writing and recording because the plummeting sales of albums in the internet age makes it hard to justify the expense and effort that goes into making a new album.

But Schon hopes to reverse that thinking and said he has a number of song ideas in hand and plans to start writing soon with Pineda. He thinks the success of Santana IV, his recent reunion album with the classic early lineup of that band, will convince his bandmates that a new Journey album can be viable.

The acclaimed Santana IV album is the culmination of a reunion that began taking shape in 2013 of the lineup that included guitarist Carlos Santana, Schon, keyboardist/singer Gregg Rolie, drummer Michael Shrieve, and percussionist Michael Carabello.

Rolie and Carabello were part of Carlos Santana’s original band that recorded the classic 1969 debut album Santana and the 1970 followup, Abraxas. Schon and Shrieve joined in time for the 1971 album, Santana III, before the group, which created a trailblazing mix of rock, jazz, Latin, and African music, broke up.

Despite not playing together for some 45 years, Schon says the lineup immediately recaptured its distinctive sound, and the Santana IV album, which sounds very much in line with the first three Santana albums, came together smoothly and spontaneously.

“The coolest thing about the record was we didn’t really have to talk about it or work at it to make it come together,” Schon says. “We just kind of went in the studio and played. A lot of it was made up on the spot. I brought in a few ideas, so did Gregg, brought in a few songs, and Carlos brought in a whole bunch of ideas. And we just sort of chipped away at it. Some days, we laid down two or three songs. That’s kind of the beauty of that band. It sounds the way it does when those people play together.”

That edition of Santana is already talking about making another album, but for now, Schon will be busy touring with Journey into spring.

Along with the hits, Schon says fans can expect Journey to dust off a song or two that hasn’t been performed in years (such as “Line of Fire” from the 1980 album Departure) and do a little stretching out, instrumentally.

“I think right now we’ve got it going on,” Schon says. “What I did notice is that in the earlier shows we did, we tried to cram more songs in with less segues, less solos for myself and Jonathan and Steve Smith and everybody else. But really, I felt like the audience liked it better when we had them in. We’ve now put them back in, and I think we’ve got a good starting set here. And we’re going to be rehearsing more and more stuff.”

 

Journey plays Tuesday, April 4 at the Wright State University Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Highway in Fairborn. Asia is also on the bill. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $29.50–125. For more information, please visit
JourneyMusic.com.

 

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Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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