Concert review: Sometimes the Journey memories are more important than the music
I know. I know. It's not *really* Journey anymore without Steve Perry holding the microphone. I hear you, disgruntled fans. But the cruel reality is this: The rest of the boys in the band have soldiered on without our favorite frontman, and life goes on. So I make no apologies for finding myself again at a Journey concert -- the fourth of my lifetime -- on Friday at Tampa's 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre.
The simple truth is: I still love their music. I yearn for their sound. I adore the way a good Neal Schon guitar solo sends chills up and down my body. I crave the memories that are conjured up with each tune. And every year or so, I need a blast of this past live in person.
Friday's show in Tampa, though, surpassed even those high expectations. The band's setlist, which they've been changing up wildly on this tour, leaned heavily on the late '70s for a change, giving fans the rare chance to hear forgotten classics such as Majestic (the instrumental show opener that still gives me goosebumps), Feeling That Way, Just the Same Way and Anytime.
I'm not sure the rest of the crowd loved the trip back in time as much as I did, but most of these songs formed the basis of my first discoveries in music. And so it was that I found myself closing my eyes often as I stood toward the back of the reserved seating area, arms crossed as I watched the lighting show send swaths of color across my eyelids. With each pass, memories of driving my '82 Mustang through the streets of Clearwater at sunset streaked by. The recollection of playing the band's Captured tape at full volume with the windows down. My entire life was still in front of me, and I knew it well enough to drink in every little detail of those moments. I kept my eyes closed as long as I could, until only tears could pry them into the 21st century.
Eyes reluctantly opened again, I found myself staring not at Steve Perry at the Lakeland Civic Center on the Escape tour. But rather an eternally youthful Arnel Pineda, who seemed to realize it was his impossibly unfair duty to stir up the same feelings as his predecessor. Arnel worked his magic the best he could, reaching perhaps the biggest swelling of emotion from the crowd during Faithfully, the song that earned him a spot in the band when he was discovered performing it on Youtube.
And next to him during the rolling power ballad? Neal on guitar, with his eyes closed tightly as well. Just enjoying the muted flashes of lights and his own trip back through time, I'd like to imagine. Maybe that's the thing critics never could comprehend: Wth Journey, it's as much about the memories as it is the music.