Journey plays first show of 2023 at Oklahoma Casino: Concert Review – Billboard
Before Jonathan Cain performed his piano ballad “Faithfully” on Friday (January 27) for Journey’s 2023 opening date at an Oklahoma casino theater, he told an audience of about 3,000 fans, “It’s good to be back. All together again.”
It was a unifying feeling after months of travel bitterness. Although the classic rock band sold 296,000 tickets and grossed $31.9 million according to Billboard Boxscore in 2022, Cain and longtime bandmate, lead guitarist Neal Schon, have been in a legal dispute since late October over Schon’s spending on Journey and American Express card Cain attending an event at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort.
As Journey prepares to return to arenas on February 4 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the two-hour show at the Choctaw Grand Theater in Durant, the first of two nights, was generally harmonious and upbeat.
The sextet’s three mainstays – frontman Arnel Pineda, Schon and Cain – dominated the spotlight. Pineda, who replaced long-dead frontman Steve Perry in 2008 and sounds exactly like him, was constantly on the move, running, jumping, waving, pointing and leading singalongs. Schon played solos constantly, opening the first song “Only the Young” with a whoosh on his PRS NS-15 guitar and improvising in unexpected ways with hard rock power chords at the end of the rock radio internals “Wheel In the Sky” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” and Cain anchored “Feeling That Way” and “Who’s Crying Now” on his red piano.
Journey’s live formula is simple: play popular hits from the ’70s and ’80s, even if Schon and Cain are the only remaining band members from that era. They sent out their signature “Don’t Stop Believin'” which has garnered almost 1.5 billion plays on Spotify alone as the third song, which followed with na-na-na-ing, whoa-oh-whoaing and general Catchy rocking ended with “Wheel In the Sky”, “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” and the finale “Any Way You Want It”.
Drawing on a setlist similar to that of much of the 2022 tour, Journey subtly challenged the crowd, opening with lesser-known hits like “Only the Young,” a 1985 single first released by Scandal, and then “Stone in Love” from 1981 Escapelater with 1984’s “Be Good to Yourself.” Growing up on the radio, during the powerful four-song finale. Most adventurous of all was Schon, who wore a black denim jacket, open-necked shirt and multiple necklaces, and spent much of the night poring over his guitars, devising various improvisational angles and colors for hits of which one thought he knew her and romped around in glam rock, metal and even new age music, with a three minute solo before “Wheel In the Sky”.
Schon and Cain kept a constant distance of about 20 meters from each other, while Cain, mostly stationary in a dark suit coat, held the stage on the lower right with four different keyboards. Schon spoke sparingly, but Cain told the story of how, on a lonely bus ride in 1981, he wrote “Faithfully” and concluded, “We pay a price for a life like this,” then encouraged the crowd to support armed forces. The two collaborated musically, particularly on “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” when Cain played boogie-woogie runs and Schon threw in sympathetic guitar riffs to bolster the piano. With the exception of Schon, who sang minimally, all six band members vocally harmonized, supporting Pineda’s incredibly high pitch on “Anytime”.
With Schon and Cain in separate corners and drummer Deen Castronovo, bassist Todd Jensen and second keyboardist Jason Derlatka in the middle, it was Pineda’s job to liven up the crowd, which he did energetically and enthusiastically. He was the only member of Journey who seemed happy to be there, jumping onto a pedestal and tossing his head back to hit those high notes, Schon patted on the back, Cain punched, Signing autographs as the songs progressed and long after the others had left the stage and stayed for crowd selfies. Rock stars may “pay a price” for the rock star life, but according to Pineda, it’s also fun.