Journey — Live In Concert At Lollapalooza (Frontiers)
Recording a Journey show for release as a live album has always been a gamble.
One of the most well-oiled and finely tuned bands on the planet have built their reputation on pin sharp melodies and slick riffs.
And there was always a danger that attempting to replicate that trademark sound at Lollapalooza would deliver mixed results.
Within the studio, Neal Schon and co. have always been able to create a certain magic: twiddling those shiny knobs to perfection.
Nothing is left to chance.
Nothing is missed.
And let’s be honest — nothing sounds crisper than a freshly wrapped Journey record.
2022’s critically acclaimed ‘comeback’ Freedom reinforced the point.
It revealed Journey have lost none of the attention to detail that’s led to more than 15 million copies of their Greatest Hits collection flying off the shelves.
And Freedom sounds very, very different to this patchy live effort from the AOR veterans.
Dean Castronovo and Marco Mendoza dominate an unnecessarily robust version of set opener Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).
And Schon needs his very own Guitar Interlude (track three) to make himself properly heard above a most un-Journey like din.
It takes poor Arnel Pineda — perfectly capable of a pitch perfect performance in any setting — a good 15 minutes to find his place in a mix muddier than a three-day old Download field.
As for Jonathan Cain’s keyboards?
He must have been praying for divine intervention on a day when Journey just couldn’t do justice to one of the world’s premier keysmen.
Live albums are meant to showcase the raw, the riotous and the refreshingly random.
But that’s just not Journey.
So what’s good about Live At Lollapalooza?
The alliterative album title?
The bright-as-a-button artwork?
How about the fact that it features just about every banger this band has ever produced?
Get over the fact that this sounds nothing like the FM-radio friendly band that’s dominated the airwaves for decades and it’s possible to appreciate LAL’s finer points.
And there are a few.
Cain is able celebrate his homecoming by leading the charge on a cracking version of Just The Same Way.
It’s clear the Chicago native is cock-a-hoop to be back amongst friends.
And to be fair to pocket rocket Pineda, the lad’s always been a fighter.
By the time he navigates his way through the evocative Still They Ride there’s a sense that this is band determined to make the best of a bad job.
Cain’s Piano Interlude is an absolute pleasure.
And once Wheel In The Sky gets the nostalgic cogs turning, this album of two halves finally feels and sounds more like the Journey fans know and love.
But for Schon acolytes there’s no escaping the fact that LAL is a let-down.
Those sweeping licks, soaring solos and unique bursts of fret-melting trickery are all too often curbed, crushed and consigned to the sound board’s equivalent of the cutting room floor.
It’s a shame for Schon.
And a kick in the teeth for fans of melodic rock’s six-string master.
Assessed in the context of this storied band’s peerless back catalogue LAL is more LOL.
One for the Journey completist and super fan?
Even they might be wise giving this woefully below-par pre-Christmas punt a wide berth.