Perhaps the progenitor of the power-chord ballad, Journey defined late '70s-early '80s arena rock -- achieving multi-platinum success while giving punk ample fodder to rail against -- and then virtually fell from sight, of their own volition, for more than a decade.

Perhaps the progenitor of the power-chord ballad, Journey defined late ’70s-early ’80s arena rock — achieving multi-platinum success while giving punk ample fodder to rail against — and then virtually fell from sight, of their own volition, for more than a decade. Resurfacing in 1996 with a new album but just now getting around to testing the waters with a tour, the band is hoping to defy music industry odds by overcoming yet another lineup change — the most recent and significant of which is singer Steve Perry’s departure.

Yes, the occasional bandmember defection has created quite a rock-group family tree here, but the outfit’s lone constant since inception in ’73 has been the gunslinger who turned down Eric Clapton’s band offer for Carlos Santana’s — guitarist Neal Schon, whose flashy licks and soaring solos were on full display throughout the perf.

Opening with “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” from 1983′s “Frontiers,” one might have marveled at the near-instantaneous audience acceptance of the new lead singer. But whether by design or serendipity, Steve Augeri possesses an uncanny likeness to former frontman Perry — in looks, sensual stage presence, vocal timbre, and even in a Sam Cooke-influenced melismatic grace, albeit rocked-out.

If anything, it was actually keyboardist Jonathan Cain’s thinner voice that disappointed on the formerly Gregg Rolie-sung “Anytime” and “Just the Same Way,” but the musicians certainly lost none of their chops during their hiatus.

Spanning their career arc of FM staples on into AM hit darlings in a rabidly received two-hour set, the few dips in crowd attentiveness occurred during their most recent output: some Higher Octave keyboard and guitar noodlings from Cain and Schon, and “Remember Me” from the “Armageddon” soundtrack, which certainly failed to garner the attention that contemporaries Aerosmith’s ballad received for the same film.

And it will be that type of renewed commercial success that will determine whether the current Journey is forward-looking or merely retracing steps.

Journey

Rock; Wiltern Theatre; 2,200 capacity; $35-$50

Production

Presented by Avalon/Coors Light. Reviewed Dec. 12, 1998.

Cast

Band: Steve Augeri, Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory, Deen Castronovo.
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