@ Castle Donington, Main Stage, June 14 2009
If imitation really is the sincerest of flattery then Steve Perry should feel mightily flattered. Arnel Pineda sounds so akin to his predecessor as Journey frontman that watching the band in 2009 can almost seem quite freakish.
Close your eyes and you could be back in the late 1970s with the band’s most famous singer rifling through the tunes which spawned a melodic rock legacy. Open them again and you see a pint-sized vocalist who makes Neal Schon look like a giant – Pineda’s not Perry but he’s every bit as good.
To see Slipknot devotees, Manson fanatics, Trivium buffs and Korn-hoodied kids bopping along to Don’t Stop Believin’ may have been a surreal vision but that iconic anthem, more than most, proves the power of rock. Bringing together fans from every spectrum of the genre we love, the famous track provided the perfect soundtrack to a sun-drenched Download. It’s impossible not to get carried away by Schon’s riff and that famous hook played on an imported red grand piano. The atmopshere was electric.
But for true Journey fans it got even better. Pineda excelled on Faithfully and wowed those present with his note perfect version of Wheel In The Sky – the first minor hit the band enjoyed within months of Perry coming on board and still a belter 30 years down the line.
What Pineda brings to the Journey table these days, however, is much more than the pipes to bring a sparkling back catalogue alive. He also provides the youthful exuberance his band mates just can’t offer after a lifetime knocking out songs and living on the road. As ZZ Top would prove later in the day you simply can’t by on musicianship alone at a festival demanding the highest standards. Energy is essential.
Pineda has it in spades and for as long as the former karaoke king sticks with his boyhood heroes Journey’s rock trip isn’t over just yet. It was hard to imagine the so-Cal crew playing the main stage at one of the world’s biggest metal festivals but they came, they saw and they conquered. Never stop believing.