Detroit,Michigan(March 2,2022)- When one of the most legendary rock bands of all time, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Journey, announced their Freedom Tour 2022 featuring special guests Billy Idol and Toto, middle aged rockers in the Motorcity quickly marked the date that tickets went on sale to the public. Unfortunately for Idol fans at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, the “White Wedding”singer had to drop off the first leg due to some untimely health related issues. Luckily for them, touring partners Toto stepped up to the fill the void and take on the open dates. The two bands, Journey and Toto, mesh seamlessly on tour together due to the fact they both share an uncanny common background. They had their most successful albums, Journey’s “Escape” and “Toto IV,” within a year of one another and both bands’ guitarists (Journey’s Neal Schon, Toto’s Steve Lukather) rank as the only original members left on their perspective rosters and also featured soloists throughout their respective sets. Both groups have been through legal tribulations with past members during the past few years and are out now with fresh lineups, some new music and a palpable sense of a new beginning.
Though Toto put in pleasing 60-minute performance, tonight was all about Journey. As in prior tours, Journey fashioned their stage set with nostalgic remembrances and imagery which left little question that the setlist itself would be built for mass crowd-pleasing appeal. Throughout their career Neal Schon and company have become quite agile at mapping out a setlist that is equal parts hits and album tracks that have become fan favorites. But Journey arrived in the proverbial “South Detroit,” much earlier than anyone anticipated at Little Caesars Arena with a few welcomed surprises in their pockets and one in particular that depending on expectations, either set the tone for the night or made the high energy encore a little too anti-climatic.
The venerable rock icons rolled out its anthem “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which put the referenced but non-existent part of Detroit on the map in 1981, as the third song in the show rather than in its usual spot as the finale. Not that the placement mattered at that particular moment in time however; As frontman Arnel Pineda extended his microphone towards the audience, fans faithfully belted out the “born and raised in South Detroit” line as exuberantly as they have for decades, at sporting events worldwide as well as Journey concerts. Of course, while the night was about more than just one song in particular, it’s easy to forget that the chorus of Don’t Stop Believin’ only appears at the very end of the song, but honestly who are we kidding, is there really any other more recognizable lyrics in music besides the aforementioned “born and raised in South Detroit?”
So it made sense for Journey to shake things up a bit over the course of its 17 songs on Wednesday. Flanked by multiple video screens, with the band’s intricate designed logo stretched across the stage floor, the San Francisco formed band came out swinging with favorites such as “Only the Young,” “Stone in Love” and the power ballad “Faithfully” in addition to “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and though his voice was obscured by the erratic sound mix throughout the night, Pineda leapt and ran like a man half his age who’s energy drink kicked in right at showtime.
It’s testament to the depth of Journey’s hit-laden catalog that its most popular song in their repertoire could be front-loaded in the performance without tipping the diversity of the nearly 100-minute show. It was the group’s first indoor show in the Detroit metro area in nearly twenty years, but it brought back lucid memories of the multi-night stands at the legendary venue Cobo Arena, where the group recorded part of its renowned 1981 live album “Captured.
In stark contrast between those early career performances and now, this current incarnation of Journey shares the load more than ever before. Deen Castronovo, back on drums after a seven-year absence, took the emotive lead vocals on the melodramatic “Mother, Father,” while keyboardist Jason Derlatka, now a full-fledged member after serving as an out-of-sight addition on previous tours, handled “Suzanne.” Schon, the last remaining original member in Journey, paid tribute to previous frontman Steve Perry while introducing the 1978 mega hit “Lights” — and credited Detroit with its widely recognized role in breaking that year’s “Infinity” album nationally.
Wednesday night’s hit parade also included a bevy of classic rock radio favorites that included “Ask the Lonely,” “Who’s Crying Now” and a long and lusty version of “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’” during which Schon and keyboarist Jonathan Cain traded licks much to the delight of the appreciative crowd. The 2021 single “The Way We Used to Be,” from Journey’s upcoming “Freedom” album, was a setlist requirement and well-received, and the closing quartet of “Wheel in the Sky,” “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” “Be Good to Yourself” and “Any Way You Want It” proved once again, that Journey can deploy its abundance of A-list material, any way it wants it and still guarantee a good time for all.
Journey has continued to successfully reimage themselves time after time with respect to their ever popular sound and universal appeal. Unfortunately, they have yet to have an enduring hit with Pineda on vocals and that has less to do with his abilities and more to do with Journey’s trademark sound. That in a microcosm, is why a Journey concert works so well at touching off nostalgia for the ’70s and ’80s along with memories to whatever you were doing during that time of your life. As for the newer song they played tonight, it seamlessly fit right in and thats a welcome return with a potential new album in the works. Fans clearly feel a connection to the glory days, especially Neal Schon but also keyboardist Jonathan Cain who continue to fill arenas across the globe of fans wanting to relive a little of those memories from so long ago. Sure, there were a few hiccups with the sound tonight but really, who cares. The vast majority of the near capacity crowd was there for one thing and as the lyrics of the 1981 hit “Stone in Love” so eloquently proclaims ; “Those crazy nights, I do remember in my youth I do recall, those were the best times……….”
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