The early hours of any new year can be tough and miserable for heavy drinkers, full of bad ideas formed in a soaked brain and spilled IRL unfiltered. Such was the case just weeks ago, when cable TV personality Andy Cohen called tonight’s RodeoHouston headliners a “fake Journey.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act was performing on a competing New Year’s Eve TV show and Cohen was throwing shade in the midnight darkness. A Twitter kerfuffle – “Twitterfuffle?” – followed with Journey fans coming to the defense of the classic rock powerhouse taking the stage amid tonight’s rodeo revelry.
As the wars went on, especially in light of the dangerous wars with real-world repercussions that have since occurred, it was quaint, short-lived, and harmless. Cohen claimed the group was a front since singer Steve Perry, who sang on its greatest hits, had long since left its ranks. Cohen’s ramblings have awakened difficult and unhappy memories for this particular musical observer. Not necessarily in a drunken stupor, but at least in a less enlightened moment, I once wrote how Queen without the incomparable Freddie Mercury was a sham. I was told that the band’s favorite backup singer, Adam Lambert, was “guaranteed to blow your mind,” but I had no idea how killer Queen would be with Lambert. Then I went to the show and had to swallow my words. Soufflé.
I don’t know what Andy Cohen is doing tonight, but I know there are plenty of great drinks to be had at the rodeo and probably a few seats for Journey – the real Journey – with longtime vocalist Arnel Pineda and legendary guitarist and band founder Neal Schon. As someone who has already made the same mistake as Cohen, albeit in front of a much smaller audience, I would encourage him to jump on a plane, put on a Stetson and head to NRG Stadium to see Journey in its truest glory, a glory built on timeless Songs.
Whoever writes blurbs for the rodeo has listed on the event page his own “top five songs” list for the band who, incredibly, are making their RodeoHouston debut tonight. It’s amazing because Journey has a long relationship with Houston, dating back to the 70s and early 80s when he rocked the Texas Jam at the Astrodome. For longtime fans and rock and roll lifers, their set tonight will surely conjure up memories of those days, but with the chilly haze of yesteryear replaced by the dust kicked up by spirited rounds of mutton. .
RodeoHouston’s Official Top 5 includes, in no particular order, “Don’t Stop Believin'”, “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'”, “Who’s Crying Now”, “Open Arms”, and “When You Love a Woman”. These songs are classics. You want to hear them, but they are expected on such a list. So, I turned to the experts for a few other songs that should maybe break the setlist. They’re not music experts or even musicians, just “old” fellow Houstonians with whom I occasionally exchange text messages about sports and music on a smartphone thread. We’ll call one of them “Mode” because it’s always in work mode. Except tonight. He’ll relax at the show and sing in a not-too-shabby alto to his favorite Journey tunes. He offered “Girl Can’t Help It” from 1986 Raised on the radio as a favourite.
Also on the feed is an old high school friend who we’ll just call “V Smack” because that’s how he’s saved in my phone contacts. Since the subject was Journey, he reminded me (as he always does when the subject is Journey) that he was at their November 6, 1981 concert at the Summit, forever immortalized by the live album Live in Houston 1981 – The Escape Tour. From this album, he chose “Mother, Father” as his favorite. You might or might not hear that one tonight, with Journey packing nearly 50 years of songs into an hour or so, but it’s perpetually on Journey’s extensive roster and worth tuning into after the show while you’re seated. in Rodeo traffic.
V Smack and I took Mrs. Sendejas and Mrs. V Smack to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion for Journey in 2014 and we were all impressed with Pineda leading the charge. His energy is incredible and his voice is true to the spirit of Perry’s originals. There’s nothing “wrong” about his devotion to the songs, which are the real stars of any Journey show. This is a point my brother Dre, also on the wire, made. You could have Steve Perry, Schon and any number of virtuoso musicians on stage. Their combined playing talents would never have meant much without the songs, so wonderfully crafted and enduring. Nineteen top 40 singles, 25 gold and platinum albums, 100 million records sold worldwide. The songs take us back and that’s what makes Journey the real deal.
At this Cynthia Woods gig, the band’s second song of the night was Dre’s favorite “Separate Ways,” and it came in “Any Way You Want It.” There were still 15 or 16 songs left to do but we were already drained of the energy and emotion of those two back-to-back cuts. Expect that kind of energy tonight, concertgoer.
My favorite Journey song is “Lights” because it’s about the love of his hometown, San Francisco in Journey’s case. The town is never mentioned by name, so the song has become an anthem for all of us who truly love where we come from, a place we feel stubbornly proud of and yearn for when we’re away. .
I don’t know if they’ll play tonight, but I hope they will because Houston has been turning the lights on for Journey for a long time. I hope they feel at home away from home here because they’ve created momentous moments in Houston, whether they’ve ripped off the roof of the ‘Dome or laid down classic live tracks at The Summit or re-energized their brand in The Woodlands or finally playing for the public in the world’s first rodeo, an event so Houston. “Ooh, I wanna be there in my town” the song goes, and I won’t stop believing the one, real Journey must feel that at least a little about Houston.
Journey performs at RodeoHouston on Thursday, March 10. At NRG Stadium. There are still tickets for tonight’s show, check the RodeoHouston website for more information.