Sunday, July 20, 2008
Arnel Pineda & Journey returns to rock Las Vegas
Article & all photos by Valerie Nerres
All rights reserved
Finally, the day that Las Vegas Journey fans had been waiting for since March 11th. The band's return and this time at the Mandalay Bay with none other than Heart and Cheap Trick. I got to the venue early and just crowd watched, slowly the casino started getting invaded by “Journey” concert T’s, conversations about the bands, incredible new addition, Arnel Pineda and a proud display of Filipino pride, all 12,000 people descending upon the Mandalay Bay Events center, under a full Las Vegas moon.
Journey’s North American tour supporting the bands 13th release “Revelation” began on July 9th in Denver, with sold out shows along the way to Las Vegas, this stop not being any different, the sold to capacity venue rocked July 19th.
I wasn’t able to see the beginning of Cheap Trick, due to the fact that I attended one of Journey’s meet and greets that took place just prior to the show. During the meet and greet, I was fortunate enough to meet Arnel and Jonathan Cain. There was about 20 or so of us in the room and my husband turned to me and said “There’s Arnel” I said.. “Where?” He was standing, his back to me. At the Planet Hollywood show, his presence and voice was so huge, here he was right in front of me, he’s tiny! I didn’t even recognize him at first. He turned around and greeted the people there with such a warm, friendly smile, his energy was so contagious, you couldn’t help but match the same huge smile on your face. I went up and introduced myself and told him that I had been one of the photographers at the Planet Hollywood show and showed him a few of my photos, he happily autographed two of them and posed for a photo. I just cannot say enough good things about him, in all honesty, it’s so refreshing and I truly believe that in Arnel, Neal found a diamond, he’s truly a gem. He’s a keeper. Since doing a recent interview with Neal, I was really looking forward to actually saying hello to him in person, he was absent from the meet n greet, but, being persistent as I am, I went up to one of the bands security people and kindly asked him if there was any way to get a photo back to Mr. Schon and have him sign it, he told me that he’d try and for me to write a note on the back with my number and he’d see what he could do.
I left the meet and greet very happy, and looking forward to seeing some live music, as I walked back into the arena, Cheap Trick was in the middle of their set, singing “ I want you to want me”, followed by “I can’t take it” and “The Flame” , “Surrender” and then “Good night”. I’ve honestly never been a huge fan of Cheap Trick, they were ok, I kept noticing that their sound was a little distorted from where I was sitting. I was impressed with 12 string bassist Tom Petersson, I’ve always been a fan of his.
At the end of their set, my phone rang and surprisingly was the cool security guy from the meet and greet. He told me that he had gotten my photo signed! I went up to him and thanked him for going out of his way for me that was probably the highlight of the night for me besides meeting Arnel.
Prior to Heart going onstage, I was approached and had to hand over my camera gear, I’ve never had to do that and felt really uncomfortable with that, I tried to explain that my lens was in a separate area than the body of my camera and that I’d never jeopardize anything by doing something I wasn’t supposed to do. I still had to turn it over. I did and went back to my seat and tried to not let it bother me. The Wilson sisters came out onstage and all I can say, is “WOW”. My first time seeing the band. Not sure what was going on with the sound, but it got progressively better as each band went onstage.
Opening with “Wild Child”, “Kick it Out”, “Straight on” one of my favorites of the night. Then going into “Magic Man”, “Mistral Wind”, “These Dreams”. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to like Heart better than Journey, they were THAT good. I have to say that even after 30 years of touring and singing Ann Wilson absolutely still had what it takes, playing not only the harder songs, but adding some more laid back folk rock. The crowd was absolutely into it. My favorite of course “Barracuda” which ended their set, but, they came back and did an awesome rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” and then “Crazy on You”.
Finally it was the time everybody had been waiting for, Journey was up next. I went back towards the front to retrieve my camera and was really getting hassled by house security as to why I was there, did I have a ticket? It was beginning to make me feel very uncomfortable as it was clear by the pass around my neck that said “Photo” why I was there. I kept trying to explain to them and they kept pushing harder. I wasn’t about to let them ruin my night, so I just went past and into the press pit to shoot.
The house lights dimmed and Neal started the show with an incredible guitar solo, the way a rock concert should start, right? Arnel came out all guns blazing with my favorite at the moment “Never Walk Away”, I was so tempted to put my camera down and just rock out, but, they only give you the first 3 songs, so decided against it. He was full of energy and passion, jumping off the drum riser, dominating the stage at times going to his knees, tossing around his black hair, it was awesome to see. The band went into “Only The Young”, “Stone in Love” after which the photographers had to leave, I had to again check my camera down at guest services, forcing me to miss a few more songs, but came back to my seat just in time for “Change for the better”. Where my seat was, I was sitting on the side of the stage, great vantage point, as I could see the entire stage and Deen Castronovos massive drum kit and watch him pound it like it owed him money. The vibe from the band bounced back and forth between the audience and back to the stage. I looked up to watch part of the show from the massive screen’s above me since I was watching them from behind, basically. On to “Send her my love”, then the classic “Lights” had the entire venue singing along. I did happen to notice that next to the monitors they had a teleprompter with lyrics going up, which was interesting. Jonathan Cain came out and played a little bit of harmonica after “Wildest Dreams” next to Neal just prior to going into “Wheel in the Sky”. I loved how Arnel just went crazy towards the end of this song. Twirling “Round and round” along with Deen’s pounding drums, you couldn’t help but yell and scream, it was electric. Next up was “Be good to yourself” and “Any way you want it”. It was killing me, I wish I had my camera to take shots of Arnel just launching off the drum riser.
The band left the stage, the crowd stomping their feet, wanting more, they returned with “Escape”, then classic’s “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin”, at this point, I happened to look up at the monitors again and noticed Arnel, practically bare chested, buttons from his shirt had fallen off, or were they ripped off from leaning over the monitors and coming in contact with adoring fans? Didn’t matter, he looked like a rock star, you couldn’t help but smile. The band finished their set with “Faithfully”.
One thing that was again a highlight of the evening, was when 12,000 people poured out from the arena into the Mandalay Bay singing in unison woo-oh – oh oh, part of “Faithfully”………..The sound just sending chills through you. Like one big massive extended happy Journey family. What an incredible experience!! Absolutely the best concert of the summer, by far.
Arnel Pineda – Lead Vocals
Neal Schon – Guitars
Jonathan Cain – Keyboards
Ross Valory – Bass
Deen Castronovo – Drums
For more information, please visit www.journeymusic.com