Let’s get one thing straight. I hate Glee. But Journey fans owe that show (and, to a lesser extent, The Sopranos) a debt of gratitude. If not for those programs re-popularizing the band and bringing new fans to the table, Journey would likely be relegated to the same fate as many other bands from the '80s: playing state and county fairs.
Hell, I saw Journey play the Weber County fair a few years ago. Not that Journey deserves to, or should be, playing lesser venues. Hardly. Not by a long shot. Their show Friday night at Usana Amphitheater thrilled a near-capacity crowd and brought back memories of how stadium rock & roll used to be. Lead singer Arnel Pineda’s boundless energy and soaring vocals kept the show moving. Pineda is the perfect front man for the group. Even during guitarist Neal Schon’s remarkable solos, your eyes were drawn to him as he danced across the stage and slapped hands with fans. When he fell to his knees at center stage while singing “Wheel in the Sky,” he oozed passion for the music and demonstrated a mastery of the moment that would have overwhelmed a lesser vocalist.
It’s a shame that a large part of the crowd arrived late to the show, as they missed solid and fun performances from both Loverboy and Pat Benatar. Benatar powered her way through a remarkable set that touched on some of her biggest hits from the days when she was omnipresent on MTV. However, hits like “Fire & Ice” and “Shadows of the Night” were conspicuous by their absence. She drew plenty of laughs when she announced to the crowd, “This is the part of the show where we sit down, because we’re old,” then launched into “We Belong.” The most surprising moment of the evening came during “Heartbreaker,” when Benatar and guitarist/producer/husband Neil Giraldo seamlessly segued into Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
You could tell that many at the show were hoping to briefly recapture something from their youth. Some broke out leg warmers that probably hadn’t seen the light of day since the '80s or dusted off long-neglected hair crimpers to add some awesome flair to their ensemble for the evening. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of a “Frankie Say Relax” shirt, but it wasn’t to be. There were many younger fans, as well, who likely hadn’t given Journey a second thought until the group’s resurgence a few years ago. Perhaps the best indicator of the temporal diversity of the crowd was the parking lot, where minivans with “soccer mom” stickers on the back window sat alongside smaller cars packed with college-age (and younger) concert-goers. You could tell those fans, new and old, were waiting for one song: “Don’t Stop Believing.”
When Journey finally gave in, and the familiar piano and bass kicked in, they sang themselves hoarse with -- and I hesitate to use this word -- glee. Back to Pineda for a moment. He sang every song at 100% with no letdown -- no gimmicks, no autotune, just powerful vocal ability. It was notable that the band saved “Be Good to Yourself,” “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Separate Ways,” all truly difficult songs for any singer, for the end of the set. Pineda not only had enough fuel left in the tank to manage those numbers, he absolutely killed them, and looked like he could go for another two hours. Not that the crowd would have minded. Not at all. If he had only asked politely, I’m sure we would have stuck around to listen because most of us didn’t want to leave in the first place.