- Journey: still waiting for that damn midnight train.
As an aficionado of and authority on karaoke, I can tell you that no song unites a bar quite like Journey's flagship hit "Don't Stop Believin'."
The writers of television's "Family Guy" apparently agree. A scene in an episode from last season depicted the whole animated, drunken gang rallying around a microphone to sing about the small-town girl and her city boy. The "Family Guy" creatives probably were thinking the same thing I do when I hear it: This is the best freakin' song.
What's astounding is that Journey has had a 30-year career full of songs equally as good, and that their pop-drenched style of rock is as appealing to 20-something scenesters as it is to the boomers who caught it the first time around.
"It's really because of the fact that the music has stayed on the radio," bassist Ross Valory says. "People are rediscovering the old rock, like Cream or Jimi Hendrix, and though they precede us chronologically, we're part of that retro trend. We see young kids or teenagers -- people that are not part of that family generation [of] Journey fans -- in the front row, showing us front and index fingers."
Those you-rock-so-hard devil signs indicate the younger set's increasing and genuine appreciation for the band and its ample roster of hits.
This marks a departure from Journey's longstanding reputation as a platinum-selling, immensely popular band worthy of little critical acclaim. They were, in fact, largely derided during their late '70s and early '80s heyday as playing soulless corporate rock.
"I can speak of when the band became most famous, from '78 to '81," says Valory. "With Escape, at that point and prior to that, there was no affection from the press. The general accusations were that we're not artists, we're just businessmen. Rolling Stone said we had no artistic value. We were stuck with the stigma of being corporate rock. But it's not just music. It's called the music business for a reason."
The idea of Journey as a band bereft of artistic merit is reversing itself as nostalgia sets in, new fans discover the music and the band continues to record.
"Artistic merit, that's subjective," says Valory. "Where does one really meet the other? [But] it's starting to turn well, and we've been enjoying positive reviews."
The reviews are of Generations, Journey's newest disc, featuring the eight-year-old lineup of Valory, guitarist Neal Schon, keys player Jonathan Cain, singer Steve Augeri and former Bad English drummer Deen Castronovo.
While stylistically familiar, Generations is neither derivative of nor a vast departure from their characteristic sound; it walks a pleasing, if not particularly daring, line. The highlights may be Augeri's vocals, which sound more like classic Steve Perry than Perry ever did, and Schon's always-on guitar work.
On this, their 30th anniversary tour, Journey's three-hour show will include songs from their pre-Perry albums, newer material up to and including Generations tracks, and a predictably awesome inventory of greatest hits, because, hey, everybody wants a thrill.
-- Aaron Retka
Journey 30th Anniversary Tour
World Arena, 3185 Venetucci Blvd.
Thursday, Dec. 8, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $39.50 to $57; visit a TicketsWest outlet, go to ticketswest.com or call 520-SHOW (7469).