Journey is traveling across the United States on their Freedom Tour 2022. They were supposed to have support from Billy Idol, which was a debatable pairing. However, Idol bowed out to have surgery to treat a chronic sinus problem, and Toto, who was set to do the second half of the tour, agreed to fill in as the support act for all 40 shows. The two bands came to Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center) in Downtown Los Angeles on April 5 and delivered a classic hits show that thrilled their adoring fans in attendance.
Pairing Toto with Journey makes much more sense stylistically. Both bands are led by guitar gods and have dynamic vocalists and multiple keyboard players that bring intensity to their arena rock sound. Each band has sold over 40 million albums. Journey was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 while Toto has won multiple Grammy Awards.
Bands that had their greatest success over 30 years ago and have gone through multiple lineup changes face distinct problems when they go on tour. The fans, remembering their radio hits and album tracks, expect to hear the same when they see them live. Toto has brilliant guitarist Steve Lukather from their original lineup, while the rest of the band members have joined over the years. They are talented musicians that accurately recreated the band’s characteristic sound at Crypto.com Arena. The group played the hits everyone expected and a few other deep tracks.
Joseph Williams’ powerful vocals paired with Lukather’s mesmerizing guitar solos highlighted the show. The band got expert support from keyboardist Dominique “Xavier” Taplin and drummer Robert “Sput” Searight who are also members of the modern funk band Ghost-Note. Lukather gave props to Xavier who rearranged “Georgy Porgy,” a track from Toto’s 1978 debut album. Xavier’s funky Nord organ line blended sweetly with Lukather and Williams’ vocals. Xavier, multi-instrumentalist Warren Ham, and Sput all provided supporting harmonies that made this new version of the song fresh and entertaining.
The surprise of the show was when an original member, keyboardist David Paich came out for “Home of the Brave.” Paich was the band’s primary songwriter, but his health no longer allows him to travel on tour. The LA crowd was fortunate that he came out for his hometown show and provided expert electronic organ playing as well as fine vocals. He stayed for the remainder of the show which included a rousing version of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” as well as spot-on renderings of standards “Rosanna” and “Africa.”
Like Toto, Journey is led by their extraordinary guitarist and only original member, Neal Schon. The most amazing thing about the current version of the band is how lead singer Arnel Pineda is able to reproduce the vocal stylings of Steve Perry, the original singer. Pineda has been with the band for 15 years and he has made the job his own. Not only are his vocals amazing, but he has a high-energy stage presence and constantly interacts with the audience. The other musicians that complete the band are also experts at their craft and help make the live show sound like the band did in the 70s and 80s.
Pineda and Schon led the band through a career retrospective of songs at the Los Angeles show. Early in the set, “Stone in Love,” “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Lights” featured powerful and emotional vocals from Pineda as he strutted around the massive stage. Schon played sophisticated, appealing solos with a variety of guitar effects. Longtime keyboardist, backing guitarist, and vocalist Jonathan Cain played beautifully and provided sweet harmonies as did keyboardist Jason Derlatka. Cain’s familiarly haunting piano riff that opened “Who’s Crying Now” drew loud applause.
While Pineda was certainly the star vocalist of the show, other members had their moments. Drummer Deen Castronovo, who has been in and out of the group over the years, sang lead on “Mother, Father” and provided a thunderous backbeat. Jason Derlatka did a fine job on lead vocals for “Girl Can’t Help It.”
Pineda had the crowd captivated during “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” and led them through a series of “na na nas” at the end of the song. Cain played a melodic and moving Roland organ intro, then switched to the grand piano for the familiar riff that began a beautiful version of “Open Arms.” Pineda was brilliant on the moving version of the classic ballad. Once the song ended Cain said, “it’s good to be back in Southern California.”
For another cosmic connection between Toto and Journey, Cain introduced “Faithfully” by dedicating it to his daughter Madison and future son-in-law Trev, who happens to be Steve Lukether’s son. Both offspring are musicians and they met at a Journey show. Near the end of the show, the band played inspiring versions of “Wheel in the Sky” and “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).” Each song featured more explosive, yet melodic guitar solos by Schon.
“Be Good to Yourself” showcased Cain’s recognizable organ sequence and concluded with another exceptionally powerful Schon guitar solo. The show concluded with a rollicking version of “Any Way You Want It” as Pineda belted out the lyrics and bounced around the stage. Schon wailed on guitar and the other musicians harmonized superbly on the chorus as the crowd sang along. It was a successful culmination to a nostalgic show by two classic bands.
Live photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2022