Neal Schon And Journey
royal farms arena | 6/16/18
By Jay Oakley
Neal Schon has lead the rock and roll charge with guitar in hand like a knight of the round table charging down the battle field with his sword. For 45 years, we have had the honor and privilege of witnessing the artistry and legacy that Journey has designed and presented. In an industry where bands are lucky to make it 5 years, Journey has done that 9 times over and Neal Schon’s fingerprints are all over it, from the beginning to the present. Some fans have been around for all of it, some for part of it and some are just being introduced by the previous generations. However, no matter when you heard your first song, saw your first performance or read your first article Journey has provided a legacy that not only connects deeply and personally with their fans but delivers their souls to a higher place.
Neal Schon has history with Baltimore; both personally and professionally. Baltimore has always been fortunate to be included in many Journey tours and one year and two days from their last visit, Journey returned to a packed Royal Farms Arena.
Anticipation was at its peak as the lights dimmed when Neal and the boys took the stage. The crowd erupted as the always recognizable intro to “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” began. A chill ran down my spine as it has always been my favorite song due to a personal attachment I have with it. As I started shooting; a look down, smile and point from Neal just added another side of kinship to the song. “Only The Young,” “Be Good To Yourself” and “Stone In Love” kept the spectacle glowing as Neal’s talent was on constant display, every note nailed and his backing vocals were sharp as a tack. Following “Wildest Dream” and a solo that froze the crowd in admiration, Neal took to the microphone to address the crowd and spoke of his fondness for the city. He requested that everyone take out their phones, lighters and anything they had to light up the venue and segued into “Lights.”
After “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” was “Open Arms” and I’ve always found this to be one of Arnel’s (Pineda) strongest songs. He has long been the right man for the job of carrying on the vocal duties but his range, pitch and tone really highlight the delicateness of the song. “Escape” and “La Do Da” were up next as the hits train just kept running us over. Steve Smith electrified the crowd with a dramatic drum solo and the crowd was given no time to stop cheering as it bridged into the always exciting “Wheel In The Sky.” Keyboardist Jonathan Cain gave a very touching speech introducing “Faithfully” and without a moment’s hesitation the main set finale was “Don’t Stop Believin’.” An explosion of confetti made it look like someone had dropped a hundred flash grenades into the arena.
The encore was the high energy; fan favorite “Any Way You Want It,” just another chance for us to watch Neal just laying down a series of the most iconic riffs ever written. Following band introductions and a curtain call, the show came to a close.
One of the coolest things about this show was the design of the stage. Of course, the tradition east, west setup but a north extending platform allowed the band to walk out into the crowd. This was an incredible design to watch Neal perform his skills in and above the fans. His artistry is common knowledge but to see it live and be included as a member of the Journey family is something so special and is not something to be taken lightly. Neal Schon has given us a gift that can never be tarnished and watching him perform is very special.
He’s a talented musician, hall of famer and loving husband. Watching his interaction with the crowd was amazing. So established that he could stand as far away as he wants and everyone would understand but that’s not what he does. Interactive, approachable and always smiling, he still loves what he does and it shows. Take any opportunity you can to see Neal and Journey perform and keep in mind who the special ones are. So friends, I cordially invite you with open arms to trust the words I’m writing for you and know that there will always be rock and roll and Neal Schon has given us the soundtrack to our lives.
Royal Farms Arena | 6/14/17
Neal Schon; Journey's founder, guitar hero, songwriter, legend and, as of this year, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. The only original and constant member left but that in no way means that he has put together some second-rate band to play the Journey hits. Every member Journey has ever had has been an amazing musician and brings a little bit of themselves to the legacy that is, Journey. Baltimore does have it's own footnote in the history of Journey with Neal Schon proposing to his wife, back in 2012, at a charity concert. And, almost like a second honeymoon, Neal and Journey brought the festivities and the spectacle back to Charm City.
Neal Schon and Journey brought the spectacle to Baltimore's Royal Farms Arena and were embraced with open arms. A showman unlike any other and delivered a show to be remembered. Schon and Journey opened the show with a bang unleashing "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)," the first of which was an incredible collection of fan favorites and rock classics. "Be Good To Yourself" and "Only The Young" followed and set up the crowd for an amazing guitar segway, headed by Neal, which stunned the crowd and the display bridged right into "Stone In Love."
Neal and Journey left no time to breathe as Arnel's (Pineda) stunning vocals launched into "Any Way You Want It." Following the legendary anthem, like a fine sniper picking his shot, Neal erupted into an uncompromising solo and series of riffs. The only thing that you could hear besides Neal shredding were thousands of jaws hitting the floor with every pluck. Neal's performance was hard hitting but also had a bluesy feel as it lead right into "Lights." "Open Arms," "Who's Crying Now," "Rubicon" and "La Do Da" followed and lead to the closing collection and the crowd's biggest chance to cut loose.
After a killer Steve Smith drum solo, Journey brought it home starting with "Wheel In The Sky." Next up was "Faithfully" which was introduced with a very heartfelt and warming story by keyboardist Jonathan Cain and like a clap of thunder, screams that woke the dead and an explosion of confetti, Neal and company closed out the main set with "Don't Stop Believin'."
A two-song encore brought the evening to a close with "Escape" and "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'."
There were so many incredible moments throughout this night with Neal leading the charge the whole way. Never a note missed, nor vocal out of tune and his precision on guitar was a spectacle the entire performance. While Neal's playing ability is common knowledge due to his work in other bands there is just no way to appreciate the intricacies of his playing without seeing it live, a DVD or CD can only give you so much. What a night, what a spectacle, what a band. This show will never be forgotten and I urge anyone to allow Neal Schon and Journey to bring them into the family, watch a living legend perform doing what he does best and show why there will always be rock and roll.
As a closing thought, I'd like to thank the band Asia for opening up the concert, warming up the crowd and setting the stage perfectly for Journey to do what they were put on this earth to do.