Raised on the Radio is a new series at My Skewed View. As a music lover I have noticed a great difference between those of us Raised on The Radio, and those who are being raised on streaming music and audio-downloads. As I try to teach my son about the value of musicianship I find it increasingly difficult to share music with the same feeling of excitement I had hearing a song for the first time on the radio. Hearing your favorite song on the radio was an act of serendipity, and if you needed to hear it that badly, you sat next to the radio all night with your finger on the record button of your cassette player – waiting to capture that perfect moment. Gone are the days of album rock, this generation will probably never listen to a whole album first song to last, they will never understand B-Sides, they will never stare at an album cover as they listen to the music. This series is dedicated to all of the musicians who had to wait for that radio station to play their song, who had to wait to hear – the long way – if their song or record was #1, who had the pleasure of knowing that every song on their album was heard.
It’s been said, that when you go out to find the perfect front man for your band, by searching for someone who can sing your songs just like the original singer, that you are in danger of creating the perfect cover band. In this case the perfect Journey cover band, called Journey.
When in 2007 Neal Schon decided he was going to find a new lead singer for Journey, he did it in a very methodical way. He hit YouTube. You may have heard the story, I know I had, but I didn’t have it straight myself. No one ever said to Neal, “Hey check this guy out.” No one ever sent him a link, or an email recommending him. After failing with Steve Augeri, Neal just started searching for singers on YouTube. Did he specifically search for people singing his songs? Yes, towards the end, when he thought he had failed. And right before he finally gave up, he found this slight man from Manilla, singing his heart out to a tiny crowd with his band The Zoo. I know this for sure; when he found the YouTube videos of Arnel Pineda singing Journey songs and sounding so like Steve Perry it was uncanny, there was nothing he could do but ask him to come to San Francisco and audition.
This is the video Neal Schon saw, notice there is no one in the audience:
The rest they say is history. But was it? Not by far. It was a new beginning. Instead of becoming a cover band of itself, Journey was revived and rejuvenated. Like so many of their album covers – it is like a phoenix rising. Even releasing two albums of new songs with their new lead singer.
I admit to really loving Journey. Really. Loving. Journey.
Although Escape wasn’t my first introduction to their music, it was the first album I listened to over and over and over. Sitting by my fathers record player, with my headphones on, staring at the album cover as each song played.
Whether or not I was concerned about Arnel’s voice as I went to see Journey live tonight at Ravinia Festival, I can’t really say. The truth was I loved Journey, and good or bad, I just wanted to see this band, this piece of the soundtrack of my life. I had heard a lot of wonderful things about Arnel, but as I created mixtapes that included Journey songs, I always chose the Steve Perry version and never even listened to the new live versions featuring Arnel Pineda.
As it turned out, that was a happy accident. The beauty of Ravinia is really indescribable, but that’s actually not my point. Most folks get there hours early and go for a whole spread. Tables and tablecloths, flowers and candles, wine and cheese, 3 course meals. The whole shebang. Being seasoned Ravinia goers, we have pared down what we bring to the bare essentials, and a book to read. Because in order to get the best seats you must arrive at least 4 hours before the show starts and wear your running shoes!
We often hear sound check as we wait in line outside, but tonight was different; we heard some drums, but no singing, nothing else. Maybe they were running late, maybe it’s the way they do it. I don’t know. But as we were already comfortably ensconced in our perfect spot, reading our books, eating our brie – we were treated to a mini concert. Arnel Pineda performed his sound check with so many of his fans already waiting on the lawn for the concert that would not begin for hours. And as he began singing Still They Ride – I had chills. Chills. He was Steve Perry, only better. A sacrilege you say, I dare you to hear this man sing live and say differently. Pineda’s voice is effortless. As my husband put it, “Hearing him sing is like a religious experience.” His voice is a gift, never once did you feel he was straining to hit a note, it was as if he could give us more if we wanted it.
When Ravinia is sold out, as it was for both Journey shows, it’s capacity is 19,000. There were 19,000 people on their feet, yelling and singing their hearts out. When Journey sang Feeling That Way and that moment came, that moment that the song Anyway starts on the album Infinity, the crowd sang louder than the band. It was a rush, like nothing I have ever felt at a concert before.
And then it happened, the most downloaded song in the 20th century and up until now; Don’t Stop Believing. Their anthem, Arnel Pineda’s anthem, I admit to becoming a little teary, but we were all there together, all of us on our feet and singing right along with him.
If you want to see something incredible, please watch this trailer for the documentary – Don’t Stop Believin’ Everyman’s Journey. It is a powerful, mini-glimpse into Arnel’s amazing story. This clip doesn’t show it, but Arnel Pineda had been homeless since he was a child. He performed to eat, and now he is the lead singer of Journey.