Journey Is Safe but Never Dull

Journey in Denver, 2011
Journey in Denver, 2011
Eric Gruneisen

To many people, the word "Journey" inspires thoughts of everything that can go wrong with rock and roll: bland lyrics, bubblegum-pop melodies, chugging riffs and technical ability given priority over soul. To others, the band represents everything great about music: anthemic choruses, bubblegum-pop melodies, chugging riffs and technical ability given priority over soul.

Music can be funny like that, and Journey is capable of polarizing opinion as much if not more than the next band. People love to gloat about the fact that, guess what, there is no region known as "South Detroit" where Steve Perry could have been born and raised. The fans don’t care about such largely insignificant details. Listening to Journey is escapism. They even named their most beloved album Escape, perhaps to avoid confusion when it comes to that matter.

It certainly doesn’t help the band’s case that the lineup has shifted and changed fairly regularly over the past two decades, most notably with singer Arnel Pineda joining the band after he was discovered singing Journey covers online. Keyboardist Jonathan Cain has been with the band since helping them compose a bunch of hits for that Escape album. The man co-composed the intro to “Don’t Stop Believin,’” and he is the sole writer of the classic ballad "Faithfully.”

Cain made his name in the late 1970s with John Waite’s old band, the Babys, before switching over to Journey in 1980, and he hasn’t looked back. Drummer Steve Smith recently rejoined the band for his third stint, and Cain says that the current lineup is finally feeling settled.

“It’s a fresh approach with Steve playing drums again,” Cain says. “He’s a dynamo, an artist of the highest caliber, and he does an amazing solo in the show. This is his first time with Arnel, but he’s been blown away.”

The trouble with a band splitting with an iconic singer, as Journey did, is that the rumors of them patching up their differences and getting back together just never, ever go away. Ask Van Halen, or Motley Crue or AC/DC. Cain does say that Journey’s door is always open to Steve Perry.

“I don’t know anything about Steve Perry — he hasn’t contacted us or anything — but the door is always open if he wants to come sing with us,” Cain says. “He’s always welcome in our camp. It’s a great band now, though. It’s definitely settled, and everyone’s having a good time.”

We’ll have the chance to see that for ourselves this Saturday, when Journey plays the Pepsi Center with the Doobie Brothers and Dave Mason. Journey and its management always seem to find a great summer package tour to attach itself to, performing with the likes of Foreigner and REO Speedwagon in recent years, and this one is no different.

“We do have some say in it,” Cain says. “This one came about when the Doobie Brothers’ manager retired and our manager took their band on, and it was his influence that led them to us. We thought it was a terrific idea. Putting it on the stage is real fun, and people love to see a lot of great music for one night. I think Dave Mason is friends with our manager, and it seemed like a cool way to start the night. I actually met him at our promoter’s wedding. A lovely guy, and a strong musician and songwriter.”

Cain doesn’t have any news regarding a new Journey album right now, but he did reveal to us details on his forthcoming Christian-rock project.

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“I’m putting the finishing touches on it in my studio in Nashville,” he says. “I want to try to have it out in the summer. I’ve been really inspired and influenced by Christian music. It’s pretty mighty, and it’s what I want to do. It’s rock and it’s got some edge, and it’s got me all over it. I’ve been back into the Bible, and it’s powerful.”

Cain is married to minister Paula White, and he's been working on numerous faith-related projects with her, including performing at services.

“It’s been so restoring to me,” he says. “We finished an album of prayers called Her Glory, and I’ve scored it like a movie. That’s mighty, and we’ve got that coming out, too. These day, it costs too much to make an album, and you don’t make any money.”

The keys man can’t wait to get back to Colorado before heading off to Asia and Europe with Journey. He’s sure an album will pop up at some stage, but until then, he’s got his solo work and also a book of his memoirs to work on.

Journey is a band that has always been musically safe, but never predictable, when it comes to the personnel involved. But this Denver show will be anything but dull. 

Journey, with the Doobie Brothers and Dave Mason, 7 p.m. Saturday, August 20, at the Pepsi Center; tickets start at $39.50.

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Pepsi Center

1000 Chopper Circle
Denver, CO 80204

303-405-1100

www.pepsicenter.com

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