Last night I watched the debut airing of Journey's Manila concert on Palladia. I can confidently say that former lead singer Steve Perry's legacy is safe.
As the story goes, guitarist Neal Schon caught a Youtube video of Filipino singer Arnel Pineda belting out Journey tunes. Schon was impressed enough with Pineda's representation of Perry's voice to offer him the job of lead singer for the legendary band. Good for Pineda, not so good for longtime Journey fans.
Pineda sounds like little more than a cheap Steve Perry knock-off, to the point where I wondered if he had a "Made in the Phlippines" label affixed to his backside. Missing was Perry's more nuanced, emotive voice. Granted, it's no small task to replace someone like Perry, whose voice guided the band's zillions-selling, multi-multi-platinum success for two decades. And I recognize the need for the remaining members of Journey to find someone similar enough to Perry's singing style that touring on the weight of the band's legacy is even possible. But I was disappointed with the one-note mimicry of Pineda.
What's most strange is that Journey's current line-up has a ready replacement for Perry in the most unlikely place—he's sitting behind that massive drum kit. Deen Castronovo, who joins legendary stickmen Aynsley Dunbar (1974-1978) and Steve Smith ('78-'85, '95-'98) as the only drummers of consequence in Journey's history, sang lead on several songs during the program, and I was taken aback by how similar he sounds to Perry. He successfully delivered the throaty quality of Perry's voice on "Still They Ride" and other weighty classics, and did it while confidently hammering out solid beats. Castronovo, a big, burly man with arms the size of small tree trunks, was the last person I expected to hear such sweet harmonies from. It was a very pleasant surprise.