Tony Soprano made sure we never lied about rock band Journey.
In 2007, nearly 20 years after their last hit, the San Francisco rockers became overnight stars, thanks to their 1981 triumph “Don’t Stop Believin'” airing on the much-discussed finale of “The Sopranos” from HBO.
“Don’t Stop Believin'” has gone from an oldie to karaoke gold, a favorite of “Glee” on television, the closing number of the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages” and a standard of sports Hall.
Approaching his 50th birthday, Journey is so confident that in concert, he no longer waits for the encore to deliver his signature song. On Monday at the Xcel Energy Center, after two laborious 1980s plays to kick off the gig, it was time for the knockout blow just 13 minutes into the show.
With Jonathan Cain’s upbeat piano intro and Arnel Pineda’s soaring vocals, “Believin'” became a gigantic kumbaya chant like “Sweet Caroline.” Everyone feels so good, so good, so good singing about this small-town girl who takes the midnight train anywhere.
It was the emotional high point of the evening – and perhaps also the musical high point, as the rest of the concert was problematic. In short, Deen Castronovo’s bass drum was so strong that it drowned out plenty of guitar solos from Neal Schon, which is one of the attractions of a Journey gig.
Power ballads such as “Lights”, “Faithfully”, and “Lovin, ‘Touchin’, ‘Squeezin'” performed better. But the bass drum always puts more power than necessary into these quieter and more sensitive selections.
For a band that had more personnel changes than the Minnesota Twins this weekend, Journey probably has to do one more – replace the sound engineer. Maybe someone from the Soprano family could, uh, take care of the arrangements.
These days, a viewer needs a program to find out who is in this Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band. Of course, there’s the 68-year-old Schon, who founded the band in 1973 with a few other former Santana members.
On Monday, he managed to shine with alternately fast and moving passages on “Lights”, jazz-fusion flavored on “Who’s Crying Now” and triumphantly soaring on “Any Way You Want It”.
Cain has been on board since 1980. But there was an acrimonious split recently leaving co-founding bassist Ross Valory and longtime drummer Steve Smith on the outside. Castronovo, a former replacement who spent 17 years with Journey, has joined the drums while Todd Jensen (Ozzy Osbourne, David Lee Roth) replaces bassist Randy Jackson, the former “American Idol” judge who recently underwent surgery at the back. . Jason Derlatka joins on keyboards and occasional vocals.
Then there’s Pineda, the number 4 singer who was discovered in 2007 on YouTube singing in a Filipino Journey tribute band. Heyday singer Steve Perry, 73, who left Journey for the second time in 1998, is semi-retired, although he released a solo album in 2018 and a Christmas record last year.
Pineda, 54, has a similar adenoidal voice and, frankly, a lot more energy and movement than Perry has ever shown. On Monday, he was jumping, kicking, clapping, slapping, playing air guitar — not standing still. And he’s got the right voice for Journey, evoking Perry perfectly with a hint of smoke on “Lights” and “Open Arms.”
Fans – all 14,000 in St. Paul – continue to believe in Journey even though the 49-year-old band haven’t released an album in 11 years. Monday’s new song is from 1986, which marked the end of Journey’s golden age. But hits like “Wheel in the Sky” and “Any Way You Want It” kept coming for 95 minutes.
Post-“Sopranos,” Journey smartly toured with other classic rock hitmakers, including Def Leppard, Santana and the Doobie Brothers. This time it was Toto, with number 4 singer Joseph Williams, delivering yacht-rock staples like “Rosanna” and “Africa.” Steve Lukather, the only original member, showed off his considerable guitar skills but, when it came to trying out lead vocals, he was the fifth best vocalist on stage.
For those keeping score, Billy Idol was the previously announced opening act, but he pulled out due to sinus issues. The Journey/Toto pairing might make sense because Lukather’s son is engaged to Cain’s daughter.
[email protected] @jonbream 612-673-1719