SAN FRANCISCO - Journey, touring again after three years apart, received the kind of hometown reception you might have expected at the Cow Palace Saturday (the first of a two-night stand). But they deserved it.
The five-member group, which features new faces in bassist Randy Jackson and drummer Mike Baird, played with the kind of zeal that seemed to say. "We're glad to be back." The repertoire was a long one, including Journey hits of years past as well as numerous cuts from the new LP, Raised On Radio, and each band member seemed to put extra effort into his solos.
But the one whose solos really made the difference was lead singer Steve Perry. In fact, it became quickly apparent that without him, the band would probably fade to dust, for it is his voice - and his presence - that distinguish Journey.
In fact, his voice sounded even better live than on record. It's not just that he can hit high notes, either; he also demonstrated remarkable control and power, and sang with considerable expression. Plus - and this is a real plus - he was a joy to watch, dancing and kicking his feet with a child's sense of play. Throughout the show, he moved with surprising agility and worked the stage with the thoroughness of a real pro.
Journey's generic brand of hard pop has never been particularly interesting, but it is both melodic and likable - which is why the group has enjoyed such enormous commercial success. Thus, the show was easy on the ears and pleasant, filled with the familiar strains and sing-along choruses of such songs as "Any Way You Want It," "Wheel In The Sky," "Who's Crying Now," and even Perry's "Oh, Sherrie" (from his hugely successful solo LP). "Open Arms," a lyrical rock ballad and one of the band's best-written songs, was performed with special warmth.
Of the new songs, "Girl Can't Help It" was especially catchy, and the chunky, soulful strut of "I'll Be Alright Without You" was a nice departure from Journey's otherwise predictable sound.
Though long-time Journey guitarist Neal Schon's efforts were merely journeyman-like (pardon the pun), keyboardist Jonathan Cain turned heads with a lush, bluesy/jazzy solo (which preceded "Open Arms"). Newcomers Jackson and Baird formed a credible, though not exciting, rhythm section.
Visually, the show benefited greatly from the four big video screens (one facing each direction) on which concert close-ups were projected - a real plus for anyone sitting behind the stage or up in the rafters. The camera work was intelligently conceived, too, with frequent use of dual images (where a close-up is juxtaposed atop a full-length shot).
Source Unknown, 1986; Supplied and transcribed by Grace H.