JOURNEY TO FAME
The island-favorite rockers return as they prepare for the induction of a lifetime
For the third time in the past eight years, Journey is coming to Hawaii for multiple shows. In 2009, it was five concerts across three islands. In 2012, it was three shows at the Blaisdell Arena. This year, it’s four (three on Oahu and one on Maui). Other than that varying number (and Steve Smith returning for his third stint as drummer), not much has changed with the band. They still arrive stocked with radio standards — “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Open Arms,” “Any Way You Want It” — and they’re nearly as big a draw here as they were in their 1980s heyday. (The first two arena shows, Thursday and Feb. 24, are practically sold out; there’s more availability on Feb. 26.)
That popularity is still stoked by their singer — Philippines-born Arnel Pineda, a Steve Perry soundalike who has fronted the band since the members called him in for an audition in 2007 after discovering him on YouTube.
One thing is new this year. Journey comes to the islands on the verge of induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is much maligned, but artists who are inducted understand the weight of the honor. For all the institution’s flaws, it does provide validation for a body of work. When you’re on the outside looking in, it’s easy to take solace in the company of others who are still waiting (the Cure, Iron Maiden and T. Rex among them). But once you are chosen, as Journey was in December, it’s time to be honored at the company you now keep. Joining Journey in the 2017 class are Pearl Jam, Joan Baez, Yes, Electric Light Orchestra, Tupac Shakur and Nile Rodgers.
“It’s quite an honor,” Journey guitarist Neal Schon said Tuesday in a phone call from Seoul, where the band was in the midst of the seven-country run through Asia. “To tell you the truth, I had forgotten about it, or wanting to be in it, because we had never been up for it for 17 years, and I was like, ‘Well, this is never gonna happen.’ … But better now than later. Some people it doesn’t happen until they’ve passed, and you can’t really enjoy it then, except from above. …
“It’s really funny, because I felt like I was already in the Hall of Fame, with how successful the band has been.”
To put that in context, Journey has sold more than 30 million albums in the U.S. alone. Schon said he respects all his 2017 classmates, but he has a special place in his heart for a couple of them.
“We opened up for ELO in the mid-’70s,” Schon said. “Jeff Lynne’s a great songwriter.
“Pearl Jam, I remember being in the studio when their first record came out, and one of the A&R guys from a record label came in and said ‘Hey, check out this new band, Pearl Jam.’ He put it on and I was like, ‘Wow, I think those guys are gonna do good.’ I dig what they do. They rock. It’s gonna be a good evening.’”
The one off note for the band members being inducted is the one who is not. Current Journey-men Schon, the band’s sole lifer; Jonathan Cain; Ross Valory and Steve Smith will enter with former members Gregg Rolie, Aynsley Dunbar and Steve Perry, the legendary vocalist who steered the band through its ’80s peak.
Omitted is Pineda.
“Arnel deserves a lot of kudos from everybody for keeping us floating for … this is gonna be his 10th year,” Schon said. “We’re moving into bigger places, some stadiums. Things are poppin’, man.” For his part, Pineda has no problem with the Hall of Fame particulars. He just hopes Perry shows up, so he can meet his idol.
“I hope he will sing with the band,” said Pineda on Tuesday, also calling from Seoul. “I’ve been dreaming of that for a very long time, because I’m such a big fan of the band and of Steve Perry.” His bandmates hope right along with him.
That said, they know getting the reclusive Perry to show is a long shot. He hasn’t performed with the band since 1991 and has been mum on the possibility of reuniting, even if only for the ceremony and accompanying concert in April. “Arnel will definitely be singing, and if Steve decides he wants to do something. … Nobody’s heard from him, so if he decides at the last second, we’re ready for him … in any key,” Schon said with a laugh.
The Hall of Fame induction will come in the middle of their tour, on April 7. Journey arrives in Hawaii on their way back from doing about a dozen shows in Asia and will next make its way across the mainland with fellow ’80s rockers Asia.
Hawaii’s own Willie K is slated to open the Hawaii shows. “Amazing guitar player and singer,” Schon said. “So that’ll be really fun, to see him.”
Even more than a week in advance, Schon was already looking forward to arriving in Hawaii, and promising a dynamic show. He promises fans will get their money’s worth.
“We’re playing over two hours,” he said. “A lot of music, a lot of improvisation.”
The whole band was already planning how much extra time to get in under the sun on the Hawaiian sand.
“We love it there,” Schon said. “It’s storming like hell at home (in the Bay Area). I don’t know if I want to go back to that right away.”
Journey last played the Blaisdell Arena five years ago.