Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a new hero. His name is Neal Schon and he can only be described in one word --- Hella Freakin Damn Charismatic Ripping Awesome. Okay, maybe more than one word...

Journey came to town and rocked the Blaisdell for 2 nights - October 10th and 11th. It's been 16 years since the last time Journey came to town as a group (January 15-18, 1987).  They were finishing up their 'Raised on Radio Tour' and just about headed for a breakup between lead singer Steve Perry and the rest of the band. A Reunion Tour ten years later fell through when Perry hurt his hip hiking on one of our Hawaiian hiking trails. He wanted the group to wait until he got 100% healed, but instead the group swabbed some DNA from him and created Steve Augeri, who clones Perry in looks, style, and voice. They went on the tour without Perry, and that was the end of the original singers stint with the group.

I went to the concert wondering what to expect. Were these a bunch of has-beens who were gonna be setting aside their walkers, canes, and oxygen tanks in order to get back on stage one more time before Alzheimer's takes over and they forget their sets? Was there going to be a scheduled bathroom break for each of the band members, or did they bring their Depends? Instead of Journey, would they be changing their name to 'Gurney'? Luckily, I was to proven waaaay offbase on any of these 'has-been' theories.

Part of the fun was just watching the fans attending this concert. We've all aged, some of us more gracefully than others. Some of the attendees felt the need to dress 'retro 80's' and showed up in leather outfits, Big 80's hair, and toting various 80's accessories (purses, armbands, pins, vests to name a few). It was definitely a different kind of concert crowd. There was the rare 'young kid' every so often, but they usually were accompanying their Journey-phile Mom or Pop. There was no attitude, no punk-factor, no problems - In fact, everyone was very respectable. But this didn't mean the whole Arena didn't come to rock!

The show started with the road crew hopping on stage to warm up the equipment in a fun and novel way. They jammed a few songs and taught us all about the universal pop chord by taking song suggestions from the audience and creating a seamless medley of pop tunes from them... From U2's 'With or Without You' to 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' and then to Deen Castronovo's (Journey's Bad Ass Drummer) vocal rendition of 'Don't Stop Believin' (Hey, he sounds like Steve Perry too!), the 'Universal Pop Chord' theory was proven. Props to this Road Crew, who did a superior job preparing the crowd for the main attraction.  It was the funniest thing to see people rushing the stage to take pictures of these guys when they came out to sing... I have to admit, even I was saying to myself, 'Oh my God, they've definitely let themselves go!'.

Then Boom! Journey was back at Neal Blaisdell. 16 years later, with a new singer and drummer in tow... and they didn't miss a beat. The show was rocking, the audience was in a controlled frenzy - a benefit of having an older crowd. No punks in house, no rude drunk bastards making asses of themselves... Just fans that were really appreciating the music that meant so much to them growing up. The set list was the standard one that they play for all concerts lately, including most of the greatest hits and some new ones off of their new album RED 13, which should be out by the end of the month. Yep folks, you haven't heard Journey until you hear Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin', Separate Ways, and Open Arms Live. These songs are slam dunks and the crowd was diggin' it. At times the lighters would come out (so 80's, yeah?) and people would be standing up dancing to the music. Better Be Good To Yourself and catch their next concert when they return next year (hopefully).

Steve Perry and Journey went their Separate Ways originally in 1987. A failed attempt at a reunion tour ten years later (Steve Perry hurt his hip in a hiking accident in, of all places, HAWAII!) dispelled any notion that Journey would every be back playing... anywhere! The band found a new lead vocalist in 1998, named Steve Augeri. Any frets or worries Journey fans may have had about the 'new' singer Steve Augeri taking Steve Perry's place on lead vocals were quickly put down. Not only does Augeri sound uncannily like Perry, he resembles him also! Instead of long straight black shoulder length hair, he has curly 'Kenny G style' highlighted curls. Drummer Deen Castronovo said it best when he quipped "Look at this guy... It's Steve Perry with a Perm!". Augeri's facial features and singing style may lead you to believe that he was created in a lab from a Steve Perry skin scraping, but rest assured that this guy packs a charismatic high energy performance that's uniquely his own. Twirls, stage running, finger pointing, face-making... A five shaka rating (out of a possible five) goes to Augeri for his Hawaiian Debut Performance at the Blaisdell.

Gotta admit it... Neal Schon is one of the coolest mofos ever to grab a guitar. Who else could get away with making those Guitar Sex Faces, Mick Jagger monkey lips, and Semi-Autistic head nods and still retain the title of 'Rock God'? So what if he looks like James Caan and Bruce Springsteen had a baby together... Neal's da man with da jam, and he tore up the joint with his captivating 'Star Spangled Banner' solo and mesmerizing finger work on 'Don't Stop Believin'. I found myself watching the 'Neal Schon Show' for over 3/4 of the two and a half hour concert, not even noticing the other dudes up on stage. An hour half into the concert, he motioned for everyone to come to the foot of the stage.  What once was clear aisleway between the stage and our front row seats soon became a pit de' mosh. There went the front row tickets, but we'd had our chance to enjoy them anyway. Best part about it was that Schon was flicking guitar picks all over the place, and I was lucky enough to snag two of them. No, I don't have super human reflexes... It's actually thanks to those Gargantuan Slabs of Meat that had positioned themselves in front of me in the Mosh.  They were extremely slow in the reaction department. They kept calling for Neal to give them some picks, and Neal kept flicking picks at them... each time the pick would bounce off a different part of their anatomy (face, head, nose, chest). Neal finally gave up (he was laughing at them)  because trying to toss a pick to these guys was like trying to feed retarded ducks... It was then no problem for a five footer like myself to burrow down there and grab some righteous souvenirs... That made my night complete.

Well, many people don't know this, but here's a list of some of the members of 'Bad English' (a band that made a semi-spark in the late eighties/early nineties but never really went anywhere):  Jonathan Cain (keyboards), Neal Schon (guitar), Deen Castronovo (drums), and Steve Augeri (Lead Vocals). Hmmmm, sounds familiar, huh? The only current Journey member missing from this lineup was Ross Vallory and the goofy faces he makes on stage (Perhaps Ross' grammar was too good for him to join Bad English??). Just goes to show you that it's all 'right time, right place'. The talent was there, but the catalyst was unfortunately not for 'Bad English'.

Through all the member additions and lineup changes, Journey has retained their energy and skills.  Still a top talent, the group will continue to draw audiences both young and old. Journey's songs are tunes that everyone grew up with - tunes so good that we all have a special memory or two associated with them. The strength of Journey is the music - the classic rock anthems that guided us through puberty, dating, and the rest of those awkward years. I guess that's why the Blaisdell went crazy again after all this time - because the attached memories and feelings came back once more for those who were present. If Journey comes back next year (as Neal Schon implied at the end of the concert) they may have to add a couple extra shows judging by the ecstatic faces of the satisfied crowd. Come on back next year guys - you still rock and you'll definitely be welcomed back with Open Arms!

Visit Journey's website at