Pineda keeps Hawaii's love for Journey alive


POSTED: Friday, March 27, 2009

HAWAII RESIDENTS have always been fans of Journey, from the band's first appearance inside Diamond Head Crater to their Blaisdell Arena debut in 1978.

They returned to the Blaisdell five times in the 1980s, selling out two nights in 1981 before returning in 1983 for an unprecedented five sold-out concerts. Even after the band lost Steve Perry and went on hiatus for most of the 1990s, local residents snapped up tickets to see the band in 2002 and 2004 with Steve Augeri singing.

On Wednesday, Journey returned to the Blaisdell once again for the first of three sold-out shows with yet another new lead singer. Filipino phenom Arnel Pineda was discovered after posting performances of Journey songs on YouTube.com, joining the band on tour in 2008 in support of their latest album, “;Revelation.”;

WEARING A WHITE T-shirt and jeans, Pineda emerged flashing a shaka after Neal Schon, Ross Valory, Jonathan Cain and Deen Castronovo had already taken their positions onstage.

As a few Philippine flags waved and a strong contingent of local Filipinos cheered in support, Pineda wasted no time getting the rest of the audience involved, kicking off the night with “;Never Walk Away”; and quickly turning back the clock to Journey's early-'80s heyday. The first of Schon's extended guitar solos was sandwiched between “;Ask the Lonely”; and “;Stone In Love,”; but you could tell a number of fair-weather fans in the audience were waiting for the band's bigger hits.

They didn't have to wait long; after a few more cuts off “;Revelation,”; Pineda got the crowd back on its feet with “;Wheel in the Sky”; and “;Lights.”; Bounding from one end of the stage to the other in a full sprint, Pineda almost seemed to be on the edge of the Blaisdell stage as he made eye contact with fans and played air guitar alongside Schon and Cain.

After “;Lights,”; Cain moved to a piano set up onstage and launched into “;Open Arms,”; which once again featured a guitar solo by Schon that reinforced just how much of a beast this guy is on his instrument. Even drummer Castronovo got an opportunity to shine, handling vocals for “;Mother Father”; the same way he did on “;Keep On Running”; earlier in the evening, from behind his drum kit!

While his band mates displayed their musical prowess, Pineda did his part to deflect attention from himself by physically leaving the stage. Unfortunately, many in the crowd decided to take a break when he did, causing them to miss Pineda's return on newer tracks like “;Wildest Dreams,”; “;What I Needed”; and “;Where Did I Lose Your Love.”;

EVERYONE WAS back in place, however, by the time Journey hit the home stretch of its two-hour-plus performance. “;Separate Ways”; got people back into karaoke mode, and the sing-along continued with “;Faithfully”; and “;Don't Stop Believing,”; as Pineda did his best to channel Steve Perry and cell phones swayed above people's heads.

Dozens of point-and-shoot cameras in movie mode captured “;Anyway You Want It,”; along with Pineda's exclamation of, “;Mahalo, salamat and mabuhay!”; before the band exited for the first time. They were back less than five minutes later, transporting the audience to 1979 with an enthusiastic performance of “;Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'”; before finishing with “;Be Good to Yourself”; and “;Who's Crying Now.”;

For a band that has performed in each of the last four decades, Wednesday's concert only solidified Journey's place as one of the best pop bands of all time, while also demonstrating its ability to remain relevant in the music industry for years to come.