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Journey & The Soundtrack of My Life- CHI Health Arena Sunday Night April 15, 2024

I am 52 years old and I finally made it to a Journey concert. This band has been the soundtrack of my life. When I was a little kid with Wheel in the Sky and Lights on my parents radio to Don’t Stop Believin’, Send Her My Love and Stone in Love when I was a angsty teenager falling in and out of “love”. These greatest hits of my life go on and on because let's face it, there is no such thing as a bad Journey song.

On April 15, 2024 at CHI Health Arena In Omaha, Ne Journey could have very easily dropped a needle on their greatest hits album and just threw the guys on stage. It was that good and it was that playlist. From the first song Only The Young, (which happens to be my personal favorite) to the last song, Anyway You Want It and what seemed like every best song they ever made in between.

I want to mention something that’s probably on everyone's mind, so let's just knock that out now. Arnel Pineda and Steve Perry. When I first heard about the replacement I boycotted anything to do with Journey. Hence the reason I am 52 and at my first Journey concert. I have had a friend or two tell me “this guy that sings for them is pretty spot on” or “he’s no Steve Perry but he’s pretty close.” Uh, uhh uh, no way, can’t be. I ain’t fallin’ for it. No one is Steve, no one. Either they are mimicking his voice or they are doing it in their “own style.” and if I wanted to hear that, I would watch American Idol, not one of the best bands in the world!

See what I mean? I am hard core when it comes to original music artists. So how did I get here? I watched the documentary, Don't Stop Believin', that my husband recommended. There I was, arms crossed. Face in a grimace. Waiting to hate him. When suddenly my ice melted for this Arnel Pineda guy. He was adorable and he wasn’t cocky or trying to replace Steve Perry as far as I could tell. Journey just wanted to find someone close enough to fit the bill and begin touring again, maybe make an album or two. Arnel has got the chops, energy and is pretty darn close to the Steve Perry experience, good enough that I relaxed and had fun.

HOWEVER, as close as Pineda sounded, he could not replicate the emotion Perry brings naturally. When we are driving in our cars alone, or having a beer in a bar after a breakup, hearing songs like Who's Cryin’ Now, Open Arms or Separate Ways, there’s a feeling you get, when his voice is a bit breathy right before he reaches his crescendo in Don’t Stop Believin’. Or the sadness inside the frustration when he is ‘losing ground and reaching for you, you, you.’ Pineda is reading a script, and he reads it to the letter, but it's missing an element, and all Journey fans get it.

More on the review, the opening song began, Only The Young, and when the near perfect vocals began, I was taken to a moment in my life that I had forgotten about. A startled emotion came out of me, when Arnel belted the words “Another night in any town” my breath caught and all of sudden, against my will, tears were streaming down my face. A flood of memories of being young, and the freedom of late night drive-ins, cruising the main drag, Sprite nights, late skates, laughing, crying etc… all there in one moment.

Without stopping Neal Schon guitar solo followed by Stone In Love was just as perfect as it was the day I heard it on the radio, not one note was changed. The stage was fairly simple, two large screens on either side of the stage, showing the band up close for the crappy seats in the back and one large backdrop screen with lighted pastel colors and designs that would change mood with each song. Send Her My Love had red roses and rose pedals, whereas Wheel in the Sky would have a spinning Milky Way or star system. In between songs or during introductions, the beautiful Scarab beetle with its rainbow feathered wings logo would be right in the center waiting. A design created by Stanley George Miller. It’s said the Egyptian Scarab beetle would make it’s journey rolling the sun across the sky into the next life at night and return it in the morning.

The songs were perfect, every song conjured up moments of not just my life of the last 50 years but everyone in that room did too. The friends I made before the show, sitting next to me, talked to me about listening to Journey when they were young, growing up in Omaha and how this was their first time seeing this band too. We felt good, beers in hand, everyone channeling their inner Steve Perry and it was a beautiful night of music and memories! To escape being an adult for a little while. And Journey did that very thing. Escape. (no pun intended)

Couple of observations first, the drummer a Mr Deen Castronovo, a good looking man of 60 with singing pipes of his own and has a helluva resume with bands from Generation Radio, and Revolution Saints. He has been a touring and studio player for Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Vai, Paul Rodgers, and Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler's GZR. All this reminds me again we need more drummers in the world! This guy was just all around a bad ass!

Second, the song from the new album Freedom they chose to mix in with a historical setlist was titled Let It Rain. A hard rock, almost heavy rock song that was difficult to decide what was happening. Nothing about it said Journey and maybe that was the point. To get as fair away from what has made them successful and try something new. I get it, but I don’t really get the song. I may have to listen to the rest of the album to make a serious opinion. I do know American Idol’s Randy Jackson also a former Journey member, took up the bass again to finish the album before quitting again.

Journey is the American 70-80’s band. They rule all classic rock radio stations because they have a massive amount of hits. They conjure memories like I mentioned, (mostly Gen X) of being young, going to dances, making up and breaking up, cruising with friends etc…I have four albums that I had to buy when they were released because I couldn’t stand the idea of waiting on the radio to play them. Having friends over to enjoy them was the highlight of my existence. Because, well as I said, and you well know, there’s no such thing as a bad Journey song.

Thank for sticking around my opinion/ review piece

This is Penny Pepperstein signing off,

See you soon, see you there!

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