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Journey live!

Photo by Andy Argyrakis

Though Journey’s never been a stranger to the road, 2013 is shaping up to be amongst one of its busiest years yet, starting with an American run (rescheduled from last fall due to illness), an Australian outing with Deep Purple, a headlining jaunt in Japan, and a European co-headline with Whitesnake. Indeed, the band that never stopped believing has become more than just one of the States’ most dependable arena rockers, but a worldwide attraction that’s currently shining the spotlight on its latest studio project Eclipse and the long overdue Greatest Hits 2 (which finally fills in the gaps missed by the first edition).

Photo by Andy Argyrakis

While there’s certainly been plenty of external activity, internally the band finally seems settled when it comes to personnel with Arnel Pineda just entering his sixth year as singer, alongside co-founders Neal Schon (guitar) and Ross Valory (bass), plus veterans Jonathan Cain (keyboards) and drummer Deen Castronovo. In other words, Journey’s well past the Steve Perry era, and while faithful would likely give their life to see him in charge one last time, at least the current collaborators are keeping the group’s momentum going with a well-rounded voyage through its extensive catalogue.

Fresh from its Super Bowl weekend CMT “Crossroads” concert with Rascal Flatts, the packed I Wireless Center appearance in Moline on Feb. 6 kicked off with “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” a nod to the group’s keyboard-centered past that sparked the first of many sing-a-longs. Those retro sentiments continued with fellow career-defining favorite “Any Way You Want It,” which flowed straight into “Ask The Lonely,” in turn, triggering a floor-to-ceiling wall of projection screens cued to match the musical action.

The ’70s and ’80s kept flip-flopping back and forth with fellow fist-pumpers “Only The Young” and “Stone In Love,” juxtaposed with the less frequently performed, Cain-led psychedelic jams “Just The Same Way” and “Anytime.” Pineda flexed his sky-high pipes for Bic-waving power ballad “Faithfully,” while Cain further showcased his piano-playing prowess with an extended introduction to “Open Arms” (even if the song itself tipped the schmaltz scales towards overload).

On one of the more surprising notes, Journey dug out the deep cut “Keep On Runnin'” with Castronovo impressively handling vocals and percussion as one-time Santana axe-slinger Schon served up some of the night’s fiercest licks. However, the final four sent the audience into absolute overdrive, starting with the bustling “Escape,” the even brisker “Be Good To Yourself,” and the electric “Wheel In The Sky.”

Valory was the star of the show on “Don’t Stop Believin'” where he struttted through one of the most famous bass lines in classic rock history, followed by a chorus that found the crowd singing louder than anyone on stage. By the time the confetti canons blasted out a venue-blanketing blur of white strips, it was obvious that no matter who was behind the mic, people simply come to hear the songs. It’s pretty hard to resist joining the party when Journey shuffles the set list from year to year with expert delivery.

— Andy Argyrakis

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