w/ The Doobie Brothers
and Dave Mason
July 16, 2016
First Niagara Pavilion
By Kellie Gormly
A huge crowd of mostly middle-aged fans enjoyed a fabulous journey into their younger years on Saturday at the First Niagara Pavilion, where Journey and The Doobie Brothers put on fun and high-energy performances.
The two bands – both originally based in the greater San Francisco Bay area – made great complements, and celebrated their California roots with backing big-screen images. One of the highlights of any Journey concert comes when the band sings “Lights,” where the screen fills with images of San Francisco, the “city by the bay-ee-ay-ay.” Meanwhile, people under the pavilion turned around to witness the lawn spectacle of thousands of lighted cell phones waving, like a swarm of summer fireflies.
The Doobies gave us their best hits, minus the ones featuring departed singer Michael McDonald. Audience favorites that got us dancing and grooving included the jazzy, folksy classic “Black Water” – a most unusual and delightful song – and the encore hit “Listen to the Music.”
Both the Doobies and Journey, in the music business since the early ’70s, have aging members but perform like young rock stars, and we hope they continue to tour for years to come. Journey has the advantage, however, of a 40-something lead singer, Arnel Pineda, who became the frontman nine years ago. This guy has such energy and charisma on stage, and ran from side to side so he could shake hands with fans while singing.
Many fans would agree that Pineda – a remarkable example of a “Don’t Stop Believin’,” since he was a homeless man in the Philippines before the band discovered him online – sounds eerily like early frontman Steve Perry. You wouldn’t think they have similar voices, but they really do. Sometimes the loud volume of the backing band drowned out Pineda’s otherwise strong vocals, though.
High points of Journey’s setlist included the tender ballads “Open Arms” and “Faithfully,” which brought many people to tears and cuddle time with their partners. The band came out swinging with the intense, keyboard-heavy rock song “Separate Ways,” and when they sang their most famous anthem, “Don’t Stop Believin’, we got a white confetti shower for a mock snowstorm in July.