Hits and songs that sound like hits dominate Journey’s 90-minute set in one of the summer’s most consistently successful package tours, a sign that the latest edition of Journey has assimilated new singer Arnel Pineda and returned to a strict focus on their hitmaking days of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Material from their Wal-Mart-only release “Revelation” stands up well alongside the classics; album is tailor-made to attract fans of the Steve Perry era of the band.
At the second of two sold-out shows at the Greek, Pineda proved he has crossed the line from Perry Karaoke master to respectable lead singer. That the new album taps into the energy and blueprint of Journey’s hitmaking era makes for a clear formula for Pineda to follow and simultaneously gives a band an opportunity to maintain a focus in a career-spanning set.
Show is limited to two types of songs — the screaming rockers and the power ballads — and they are delivered in blocks; six up-tempo numbers open the show before a pairing of new ballad “After All These Years” and “When You Love a Woman,” a hit from 1996’s “Trial by Fire” album that reunited Perry with Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain after a nine-year separation.
It’s a smart tactic, this elimination of songs that wind up sounding like stylistic detours when placed against the likes of “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” and “Lights”: We live in a singles era, and no matter how focused Journey has been on cohesive albums over the band’s 35 years, this show emphasizes the potency of Journey’s singles, which in turn pulls in a wider audience. Concert emphasized the craft of Schon and Cain, not their moments of adventurousness.
Evidence that the two continue to fine-tune the Journey sound within these parameters showed up in “Change for the Better,” one of the up-tempo numbers on “Revelation” that relies on the standard Journey-isms — a story about searching for a brighter tomorrow, a catchphrase in the chorus and simple bite-sized rhymes. It’s such a dense and rigorously performed track that when the band’s 1983 hit “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” follows, the better known tune comes off as lethargic and riddled with holes; it’s a bit of a letdown.
Overall, though, everything about Journey feels rejuvenated — the energy in the playing, the songwriting and the feeding off the energy of the fans. Heart made a good case for their legacy, too. Ann Wilson demonstrated her pipes are still Superman-like — particularly on an extended “Magic Man” and a convincing version of the Who’s “Love Rein O’er Me” — and guitarist Craig Bartock brought playful touches to many of their trademark riffs. Cheap Trick stuck to hits, too, but appeared a bit worn out by the trek that started July 9 and closes Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M.