Possibly worn down by the tedious pre-entrance security procedures, the audience at the Journey concert in Manila on February 17, 2017 was sullen and remained seated for a long time while bouncers and ushers walked up and down the aisles at the MOA Concert Grounds.
The stage had the Journey logo, a scarab beetle, in the middle as a backdrop, and the band’s instruments in different sections.
At 8:57 pm, the strings started and lead vocalist Arnel Pineda walked out onstage wearing black leather pants with a gold chain belt, black shirt and a grey marching band jacket over it.
His greeting was welcomed with hoots and applause by the hometown crowd that was composed not only of Filipino fans but had a good multicultural mix as well.
Journey went into “Separate Ways” straight away, with Arnel walking and running across the stage. The Filipino singer ended with a flourish by jumping from steps onstage. This set the mood for the high octane performance.
After Arnel shouted “Magandang gabi po, Pilipinas!” the band launched into “Be Good to Yourself.” The Pinoy vocalist took off his jacket and bared his intricate arm tattoos in the process. He kept on walking to different corners of the stage, encouraging people to stand. However, the audience mostly kept to their seats.
Lead guitarist Neal Schon went into one of what would be many amazing and memorable guitar riffs throughout the night. Dressed in all black with a leather jacket, and a red bandana around his head, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee contorted his face and you could tell that behind his dark shades, was a lot of passionate playing.
Arnel dedicated the song “Only the Young”: “Para sa mga batang Pilipino!” Displaying boundless energy, he ran across the stage and kept jumping around, as he continued to encourage people to stand up and clap with their hands up in the air.
“Pilipinas, I’d like you to meet, for the second time, Mr. Neal Schon, guitars,” Arnel’s intro was met with loud applause and cheers as Neal made his guitar hiss and weep, his digits moving swiftly across the fingerboard.
For the intro to “Stone in Love,” Arnel once again coaxed audiences from their seats with “Come on, Pilipinas! I wanna see those hands, come on! Those Filipino hands. Come on!”
Steve “Machine Gun” Smith owned the song with his electric skills on the drums.
The audience, composed of a wide range of ages, erupted in wild applause as “Anyway You Want It” started. Arnel engaged the audience and jumped across the stage. He ended with “Anyway you want it, Pinoy!”
“Okay lang ba kayo, mga kababayan?” he asked the crowd.
Neal interjected: “How are you, Manila? Are you glad we’re back in your city?”
There was just a smattering of replies.
“Are you happy we are here?”
At this point, more people shouted “yes!”
“Come on, man, are you happy we are here?”
The entire audience made a loud noise.
“We’re gonna take you to our city by the bay right now. This is a song that was written about San Francisco that Steve Perry and I wrote in the late ‘70s. And this is about our city by the bay. Get out your cellphones and light this place up like a giant Christmas tree.”
“We wanna show them those Pinoy hands!”
Then, “Lights” came on, and it could have been an ode to the city(ies) by the bay where the concert was happening.
“Thank you for those lights, Pilipinas!” Arnel said.
“Okay pa kayo?” Arnel asked. “Parang nanghihina kayo....” no doubt referencing the majority of audience members who were glued to their seats.
“For the second time, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Jonathan Cain on piano!”
What followed was a beautiful solo by Jon on what looked to be a baby grand, but we were too far from the stage to see for sure. Each key was made richer by the fact that it was a piano and not an electric organ that was being played.
Jon segued to the opening of “Open Arms” and the spotlight hits Arnel, now dressed in a zipped up black jacket. As he started the first lines, the crowd went wild and many concertgoers were heard singing along to that favorite Filipino karaoke ballad. Arnel ended with a falsetto note.
Jon said: “People of Manila, your hometown boy, Arnel Pineda!”
To which Arnel replied: “Thank you, Mr. Jonathan Cain on piano!”
Arnel took off his jacket and, in a basic white t-shirt, led “Who’s Crying Now.” Some people in the audience left their seats to stand behind barriers to sing with the band. Arnel did the signature vocal riffs, Ross the bass riff, and Neal launched into riffs that had his guitar squealing.
“Neal Schon on guitars!” Arnel said, as the audience applauded.
“Pilipinas, are you good?”
Some people answered “yes!”
“I hope your meek and timid reaction means happiness. This is a rock and roll show, you guys!”
Neal added: “It is a rock and roll show. Now, we feature ‘After The Fall’ with Travis Thibodaux.”
Travis did his soulful rendition of the Journey Billboard Hot 100 hit, displaying his wide range.
GETTING THEM ON THEIR FEET.
As Arnel was walking back onstage in a purple shirt: “Can I just say something before we go on? The last 9 cities we’ve been to were rocking, loud, and very happy.” Some people in the audience laughed at this point. “So, do you want that this tenth show, in my hometown, to be the quietest one?”
“Do me a favor, mga Pinoy. We have to be the noisiest tonight, okay?”
Some people answered “Okay!”
“We’ve got to make some record here, okay?”
More people howled their reply.
“Stand up and rock with us, come on!”
At this point, everyone in the MOA Concert Grounds was on their feet.
“Nobody’s stopping you, so stand up and rock, come on!”
“Edge of the Blade” started and Arnel and the rest of Journey rocked the stage.
“Look at the cameras! Clap your hands, come on!” Arnel said.
At the end of the song, to riotous applause, he shouted: “That’s what we call a rock show!”
Arnel took to the center of the stage to encourage people to clap to a beat. “Ok, we’re gonna show you the beat.” Instruments then hands made rhythms.
“Everybody! Smile, the camera is on you. You gotta look good!”
After “Machine Gun’s” drums, people were clapping to the beat.
Soon, they were performing “La Do Da.”
JOURNEY’S “BAYAN KO.”
Arnel walked offstage and Neal started with a guitar riff of something vaguely familiar. As the band played instruments to a weepy rendition of the folk Filipino classic “Bayan Ko,” lights onstage mimicked the rays of the sun on the Philippine flag. The audience clapped and hooted their appreciation ‘til the end of the song.
As Arnel once again emerged onstage, this time in a short-sleeved, button-down black shirt, he sang “After All These Years.” This was the most mellow moment of the concert. At the end of the song, he said: “To all of you: thank you! And to my wife: I love you.”
“Back to Mr. Neal Schon, ladies and gentlemen!” Arnel introduced once again as his bandmate launched an amazing series of guitar riffs.
This set the tone as Arnel went back onstage to lead the edgy “Wheel in the Sky.” While the song was playing, Arnel jumped around the stage and at some point, jumped over the barricade to walk and sing among the audience.
Next, Jon, at the piano, said: “Manila, magandang gabi! You know how they say behind every song is a story... We started this next song in a late night bus ride in 1982. It was a long tour that year, and I realized all of us--the crew, the band--we all paid a price for the road life we live. We recorded that song in the ‘Frontiers’ album in 1983. A year later, we brought it to Asia and sang it for the first time, we were surprised to see fans with signs saying ‘We’re forever yours.’ ‘We’re forever yours, faithfully.’”
Arnel said: “You gonna sing with me? Lakasan ninyo, sabay-sabay, okay? Pinakamalakas! Come on!”
The audience sang along with “Faithfully.”
“Are you ready for more, Philippines? Manila?”
As Sam’s drums started, Arnel said: “To everyone still chasing their dreams out there, keep chasing them!”
The opening to “Don’t Stop Believin’” made the audience shout loudly.
“Keep those hands in the air!” Arnel said.
“Sing with me, Manila!” And sing they did--loudly and with much gusto. There was no doubt that everyone was now on their feet, shouting, singing, clapping, waving their hands in the air, and dancing.
Arnel said “Good night” and there was major fanfare, confetti, and smoke as the band took their bows and walked off the stage. But the audience only had to shout “More!” a few times and after two minutes, Journey was back onstage for the encore.
Neal asked: “Are you still there?”
Some people shouted “yes!”
“I can’t freakin’ hear you!”
More people screamed.
“Okay, we’re gonna jam it out for you. Would you like to stay for a while?”
“Yes!” was the consensus.
Neal continued: “We are gonna play a song called ‘La Raza del Sol’. It was meant to go on our ‘Frontiers’ record in the ‘80s. It never quite made it so it went on a box set. It’s got a real Latin flavor, it’s gonna feature everybody in the band, we’re gonna just jam it out, have some fun with it. It’s coming from a place where I started when I was 15 years old and joined Santana. It’s got a lot of that Latin flavor so I hope you dig it.”
As the song started, Arnel, wearing a grey shirt, said: “If you feel like dancing, nobody’s stopping you!”
The audience danced and jumped to “Lovin’ Touchin.’” Towards the end of the song, Arnel once again jumped into the audience area and was greeted with hugs and handshakes by audience members.
The night ended with the very appropriate “Rock ‘n Roll.”
“Good night and thank you!” Arnel said, as the audience applauded and cheered.
“Before we finally go, I would like to introduce to you, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2017 Inductees: we start with Mr. Jonathan Cain on keyboards and on vocals--come on, Pilipinas! And on bass, I would like to give you, Mr. Ross Valory on bass and on vocals. And on drums, he’s back, he’s mean, Mr. Steve ‘Machine Gun’ Smith. And of course, our guitar hero, Pilipinas, Mr. Neal Schon!”
The audience clapped for the band members.
Ross took the microphone and added: “Last but not least, the Philippines’ very own, the man who we joined on tour all the way over here, Arnel Pineda!”
The audience screamed and hooted for their fellow Filipino.
“Thank you so much. Maraming, maraming salamat po, Pilipinas. Mga kababayan, mahal ko po kayo! Sa lahat ng mundo, dinadala ko ang ating bandila. Maraming salamat po! We love you!”
The members of Journey took their bows, to cheers and whistles.
As they were walking off-stage, Arnel said: “Good night everyone, enjoy the rest of the night. It’s still young! We love you!”