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Don’t stop believin’ in Journey, Pat Benatar

Arnel Pineda, current Journey lead singer (left), while original member Neal Schon looks on. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Arnel Pineda, current Journey lead singer (left), while original member Neal Schon looks on. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Melissa Ruggieri is on vacation so she let AJC Radio and TV Talk blogger Rodney Ho came in to indulge in his love for the 1980s by checking out the Journey/Pat Benatar concert Saturday night, October 6:

During Journey’s high-energy set at a packed Aaron’s Lakewood Amphitheatre last night, guitarist Neal Schon pulled out a guitar solo of “The Star Spangled Banner,” channeling Jimi Hendrix, American flag on the video screens behind him.

The underlying message: Journey is as American as mom, apple pie and baseball.

Their music is a mix of brawn and vulnerability, intimate yet arena friendly, packed with positivity messages (”Don’t Stop Believin’! “Keep on Runnin’ ” “Be Good To Yourself”) and longing (”Faithfully,” “Open Arms”).

Three of the current members of Journey go back to the “Escape” days, including keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Jonathan Cain, bass player Ross Valory and lead guitarist Neal Schon. But the most intriguing aspect of the current lineup is lead singer Arnel Paneda, a Filipino plucked from YouTube in 2008 with a fairy-tale story who brings verve and powerful vocal stylings that evokes but doesn’t completely imitate Steve Perry, who sang the most iconic 1980s originals.

Paneda didn’t waste time with extraneous patter between songs. It’s all about the hits – like an 18-song rock block on a classic album-oriented rock station. The segues were tight and most of the versions very similar to the studio creations, right down to virtually identical vamps Paneda made at the end of songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” and “Anyway You Want It.”

The concert itself brings back the days of extended guitar solos and lighters waving in the air. The longest non-singing stretch was when he asked the crowd to whip out their smartphones during “Lights.” And nowadays, people use iPhone apps that look like lighters rather than actual lighters. Case in point:

fake cigarette lighters

Here’s Journey performing ‘Open Arms’ last night:

I actually came to the concert to see Pat Benatar, who was the middle act. I was curious if the early 1980s rocker still had her vocal chops.

Fortunately, she still did.

Dressed in an Ellen Degeneres-style jacket and pant combo, her short hair cut looking very 1982, Benatar at age 59 brings ferocity and emotional depth to every one of her songs. In many ways, her tough-gal feminist mystique was a precursor to what you see today in the likes of Pink and Lady Gaga.

The classically-trained singer has worked with her husband Neil Giraldo since her early days featuring “Heartbreaker” and her top 10 hit “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” in 1980. (Dating myself, “Hit Me” was one of the first 45s I ever purchased at a Record World on Long Island.) The affection she shows him on stage is palpable. At one point, near the end of “Promises in the Dark,” as he is doing a guitar riff, she touches his cheek with her left hand.

There’s a reason she never spiraled into rock and roll cliches of drugs, booze and despair. She had a stabilizing force in her husband, who gets equal billing when the pair go on solo tours.

And when she told the crowd that her video “You Better Run” was the second video ever played on MTV after the Buggles‘ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” she noted that first video did not have any guitars. So Giraldo was the first guitarist ever on the network. Proving, she teased, that “he’s older than dirt.” (Or actually 56 years old.)

As the lead-in act to Journey, Benatar’s set was relatively brief 10 songs (including a moment in the middle of “Heartbreaker” when she breaks into a muscular version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”). But ultimately, she left us wanting more, which is a good thing.

And somehow, Benatar is one of the few women that can make a tambourine look cool.

Listen to her perform “Promises in the Dark.” Impressive:

pat benatar

Hubby and lead guitarist Neil Giraldo and Pat Benatar at Lakewood Saturday night.

Hubby and lead guitarist Neil Giraldo and Pat Benatar at Lakewood Saturday night.

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10 comments Add your comment

JJ

October 7th, 2012
12:29 pm

Rodney, Did you show up late to the show? You didn’t even mention Loverboy who played before Pat Benatar hit the stage. I personally went to see Loverboy and Pat Benatar. Yes, Mike Reno is not able to move around the stage as he did “back in the day” but the band sounded really good. Of course, Pat Benatar does not disappoint at all. She & Neil know how to rock!

BehindEnemyLines

October 7th, 2012
3:21 pm

Echoing JJ, disappointed to at least not see a mention of Loverboy, especially considering they’ve actually just released a decent — not great, but not horrible — new album & are still at least trying to be something other than a greatest hits act. And they’re doing it with virtually all the members of the original lineup, not an easy or common feat these days either. And if you were in Atlanta in the 80’s, you know that they were every bit as noteworthy here as Benatar. No problem with giving her some respect here, just disappointed by the poor judgment to slight another band on the bill.

sam

October 8th, 2012
5:48 am

Wow! He HAS pipes!!!

Jeffrey

October 8th, 2012
7:46 am

Rodney, I agree with the first two postings, Loverboy sounded great and is def worthy of a mention in the article. Short (but great) set to open the evening…

Mitch Kumstein

October 8th, 2012
9:17 am

I saw Loverboy open for the Who in San Diego in ‘82. They blew them off the stage!

Sorry I missed them, but it’s football season you know…

Captain Midnight

October 8th, 2012
10:19 am

Loverboy was awesome. Reno still with the stellar vocals. He did kinda have that Elvis 77′ look about him but they rocked non the less. Pat Benatar was incredible. Her voice soared to the rafters.
She hasn’t slowed a step. Journey is obviously a wealthy band hince the stage production. I tried to give them another shot after seeing them at Chastain with Steve Agueri a few years ago but I’ll say this after seeing them now with Arnel Pineda. Really no feel of nostalgia. Pineda didn’t sing the songs they way they were originally recorded/performed. It just seemed hollow and without soul.Journey simply is not Journey without Steve Perry.

TD

October 8th, 2012
11:26 am

I think we can sum up this show by saying that the perspective of anyone who says Loverboy blew the Who off the stage is just wrong, as was this concert in general. Maybe the epitome of the totally lame ass boomer tour ever. No matter how catchy ” Don’t Stop Believing” may be, Neil Schon is a waste of talent, Benetar an 80’s cliché, Loverboy a complete joke. Working’ for the weekend? No, working’ to get as far away as possible from the drivel droning out of Aaron’s amphitheater. Even as guilty pleasures, these bands rate the nadir of classic rock acts that still tour. Here’s a suggestion: stream a decent radio station (cause there are none in ATL), latch on to one of many great bands out there, and go check them out at Tabernacle, the Earl, Center Stage, Variety Playhouse, et al, and see someone worth your time. Oh, and @BELines, you went to see this crap? You’re even more lame than I figured. Didn’t you flush your brain yet, db?!

TD's right

October 8th, 2012
1:19 pm

TD, that’s funny as hell, and right on target.

Lara D

October 8th, 2012
7:30 pm

I have to agree with previous comments about leaving LOVERBOY, out of the senario…..Mike Reno bellowed out with The Kid is Hot Tonight, like it was first played in the late 80″s!!!! Maybe you should add a little something about how fantastic Loverboy was too :(

ironeagle

October 9th, 2012
3:41 pm

havent had urge to see Journey since they are basically a tribute band now with a SP sound alike…also didnt like how they handled Jeff Scott Soto who brought new life to that band
secretly though i wish they would kiss and make up *LOL*

Pat ROCKED!!
LB very good also