The classic Journey line-up sans Steve Perry traveled to Tokyo in 2017 to play their two top selling albums back to back and now you get to hear and see it!
1981’s Escape and 1983’s Frontiers are without a doubt the two most popular albums in Journey’s vast catalogue. Escape has sold 9 million copies and it’s follow-up Frontiers didn’t do too bad racking up 6 million in sales. Between the two long players there were also six Top 20 hits including the most downloaded song of all-time “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
For all this fanfare you would think that playing these albums back to back in order would be the best concert you had ever seen but sadly that’s not the case. The biggest hurdle is that Escape is a far superior album than Frontiers so as the concert goes on the setlist gets weak. Escape starts with the aforementioned “Don’t Stop Believin'” and Frontiers ends with four horrible songs in “Troubled Child,” “Back Talk,” “Frontiers” and “Rubicon.” Plus they don’t even play “Troubled Child.” At first I though it might have been cut for time from the CDs but it’s not on the Blu-Ray either.
The encore includes an Escape b-side called “La Raza Del Sol.” This track is cool to see and hear live but if you’re supposed to be playing both albums in their entirety then it should have been replaced by “Troubled Child.” The set closes with a song that is so closely connected to the Steve Perry era that I have no idea why they ever play it at all. The song is “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'” which is a solo Perry composition. No input from Neal School or any other band member. The version on this release goes on for close to 11 minutes and is a waste of time when you think that they could have played at least two other songs in it’s place.
So how is the performance? When I first listened to the CDs I felt the mix was muddy but when I watched the Blu-Ray I was quite impressed with how great the whole show sounded. The picture is great as well. Arnel Pineda is still the current MVP of the band as singing this catalogue of songs night after night would most definitely take a toll on any singer. Pineda still gives it his all and even though he no longer tries to sound like Perry he does a magnificent job from start to finish.
The rest of the band includes original founding members Neal Schon (guitar) and Ross Valory (bass) plus long time members Steve Smith (drums) and Jon Cain (keyboards). The band members still play with abandon especially Schon who is a soloing machine and Valory who is a mugging ball of thumping energy. Smith is less of a heavy hitter at this stage of his career but his technique and finesse can still make you bang your head a little. The weak link for me has always been Cain. He’s a great songwriting collaborator and an adequate keyboardist but as a live performer he lacks any stage presence at all. Zip. None! The band also turns the microphone over to touring second keyboardist Travis Thibodaux to sing lead on “Lay It Down” and “After The Fall.” Travis sounds great on “Lay It Down” and then flat out generic on “After The Fall.” In reality he’s most likely in the touring band to give Arnel a much needed break.
All in all if you are a Journey fan you will love having this three disc set in your collection. It serves as a nice document of what the band was doing in 2017 and continues to do on in arenas all over the world.
Pat Francis currently hosts the popular comedy/music podcast “Rock Solid,” called 1 of the 8 great music podcasts to put in your ears by USA Today and featuring artists such as Melissa Etheridge, Sammy Hagar and Susanna Hoffs. His frequent appearances on Jimmy Pardo’s top rated podcast “Never Not Funny” are fan favorites. Pat began his entertainment career as a stand-up comic in Chicago, IL. After touring the country and performing in 42 states at comedy clubs and colleges, he relocated to Los Angeles, CA. There he appeared as a comedian on Comedy Central, AMC, the UCB and is a yearly regular at the San Francisco Sketchfest. For the past 5 years he has also served as Co-Host of the yearly event Pardcast-A-Thon which to date has raised over 700,000 for Smile Train. When not entertaining people in person he also makes his living as a Story Producer for reality television programs. It is also important to know that Pat is a monkey in a human mask.