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Gary Lambert: Journey Goes Full Throttle at Santa Barbara Bowl

Journey and lead guitarist Neal Schon rock the stage during their Sept. 1 concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Click to view larger
Journey and lead guitarist Neal Schon rock the stage during their Sept. 1 concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl. (Gary Lambert / Noozhawk photo)

Journey went full throttle through Santa Barbara on Sept. 1, leaving their mark on the Bowl.

It was the third visit that Journey has made with lead singer Arnel Pineda, the first in August 2010 and the second in October 2011. What makes this interesting to me is that I’ve attended all three concerts — the first with Pineda being introduced to the Santa Barbara concert fans, and the second, a year later. What many were thinking at that time was, can Journey survive without Steve Perry? Many thought it was over without their former frontman and lead singer.

But Journey has been going full throttle since Pineda joined the band in 2007. Ticket sales have been selling out everywhere for the past nine years, including their concert at the Bowl last week where it was standing-room only.

Journey was given a new life from new lead singer Pineda, and Pineda was given life from Journey. They needed each other.

Who would have thought that the songs we all love could be sung by a young man who was living on the streets of a Third World country, the Philippines? Yet Pineda has been labeled a tribute artist by many critics.

Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain says, "that’s not the case. ... He’s not a tribute band singer. They’re scary because Perry and Pineda are a bit like clones. A lot of these tribute guys can sing the old stuff, but you try to put a new song in their mouth and they can’t do it."

Looking back, it must have been a great day when Journey’s main man, Neal Schon, discovered Pineda in a desperate search by staying up into the late hours of the night looking for a new lead singer. Schon had searched and searched and was ready to give up, but in the last hour became amazed at what he had discovered on YouTube. He had just found Pineda, his new lead singer.

Journey lead singer Arnel Pineda and lead guitarist Neal Schon bump fists during the show. At left are bass player Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith.
Journey lead singer Arnel Pineda and lead guitarist Neal Schon bump fists during the show. At left are bass player Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith. (Gary Lambert / Noozhawk photo)

You might ask, what were the chances of this happening? I say it was near none! Soon after Pineda joined the band, Schon said in an interview, “We feel reborn. I think there’s a lot of chemistry among the five of us. At first we were going to go into the studio to just write four songs, but now it’s escalated to a lot of great new and diverse material. The stuff sounds tremendous. Everyone’s so stoked about it. We feel very fortunate to have found Arnel.”

In researching some of this material, I have found that there is unequivocal bond between Schon and Pineda that has put Journey on fire and pushed them full throttle through the stratosphere, and many of us felt it at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

In closing, a few of their accomplishments: Their sales of music have resulted in two gold albums, eight multiplatinum albums and one diamond album (including seven consecutive multiplatinum albums between 1978 and 1987). According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Journey has sold 48 million albums in the United States, making them the 25th best-selling band. Their worldwide sales have reached close to 90 million records, making them one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time.

Setlist

» 1. Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)

» 2. Ask the Lonely

» 3. Never Walk Away

» 4. Stone in Love

» 5. Keep on Runnin

» 6. Change for the Better 

» 7. Lights

» 8. Still They Ride

» 9. Open Arms

» 10. Escape

» 11. Weel in the Sky

» 12. Higher Place

» 13. Wildest Dream

» 14. Lovin, Touchin, Squeezin

» 15. Be Good to Yourself

» 16. Faithfully

» 17. Don’t Stop Believin’

» 18. Any Way You Want It

— Gary Lambert is a Noozhawk contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.

Keyboardist Jonathan Cain is shown on the big screen. Click to view larger
Keyboardist Jonathan Cain is shown on the big screen. (Gary Lambert / Noozhawk photo)
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