Very special guest Toto returns as direct support
Journey launched their 50th Anniversary Freedom Tour at the PPL Center on Saturday night (Feb 4th) to a packed house eager to take a musical journey (pun not intended) back to the 80’s.
Lead singer Arnel Pineda bounded on the stage with the lightness of a giddy schoolboy at recess. But don’t let the 55 year old’s youthful charm fool you: his is a powerhouse voice worthy of stepping into the golden boots of Steve Perry.
What first hits at a Journey concert is how readily the longtime fans have come to embrace Pineda over the past decade and a half. Cheers and cries of “There he is!” rang out as he took his rightful place among Hall of Fame legends Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain.
Throughout the night, the band traded lead vocals. Journey’s longest-serving drummer Deen Castronovo sang “Walks Like a Lady,” while Jason Deelatka offered “Wheel in the Sky.” Keyboardist Cain and guitar shredder Schon both delivered stellar instrumental solos and extended jams throughout the night.
But it was Pineda, a native of Manila in the Philippines, who stole the show. His journey to Journey is the stuff dreams are made of and worth a read on its own. His sky-high vocals and endless energy have earned him true celebrity status and refreshed the Journey brand when he joined in 2007.
Pineda’s crystalline vocals never wavered as he performed tricks with the microphone, jumps from speaker to speaker, and exchanged high-fives with the crowds. It’s clear he is at home on that stage, Journey’s iconic Phoenix logo under feet that never seem to touch the ground. In the last 16 years, he has made the beloved music his own.
Fellow classic rockers — abhor the term “Yacht Rock” — Toto opened the show with an hour-long set including hits “Home of the Brave,” “Rosanna,” and of course “Africa.”
Their set was an early demonstration of how dialed-in the sound was inside PPL Center. Each note of their deceptively complex instrumentation could be heard perfectly. Steve Lukather continues to prove himself (and not that he needs to) the best guitarist in the biz and an underrated rock god. Joseph Williams’ cutting vocals were as powerful as ever.
Interestingly, Toto and Journey are now bands-in-law, as Jonathan Cain’s daughter married Lukather’s son last year.
Journey’s music is a bedrock of culture. I defy you to go one month without hearing “Don’t Stop Believin’” or “Anyway You Want It.” From “Stone in Love” to “Faithfully” to “Open Arms,” all the hits were present and fresh. The crowd was one with the band in a way I have rarely witnessed at a rock concert. That is, partly, due to the vibe of Pineda’s singing-it-for-the-first-time delivery.
At PPL Center, as Journey officially kicks off the 2023 leg of the Freedom Tour honoring 50 years, one thing was clear. Five decades later, fans are begging them: Don’t Stop. That’s the way we want it.