By John Benson
Unlike any summer in recent history, Journey’s “Lights” lyrics “When the lights go down in the city/And the sun shines on the bay” will take on a different meaning as the popular classic-rock act tours the country with fellow San Francisco artists the Steve Miller Band and Tower of Power.
The bill rolls into Northeast Ohio for a Tuesday date at Blossom Music Center.
It’s been quite an interesting decade for Journey, which seemingly peaked in the ’70s and ’80s as an arena-rock powerhouse before losing its steam and singer Steve Perry in the ’90s.
However, a second act of unimaginable proportions took place in the late 2000s when the group added Philippines cover-band singer Arnel Pineda into the mix. The band’s 2008 double-disc effort “Revelation” went platinum, America fell back in love with Journey, and the group has been touring seemingly nonstop since.
Journey guitarist Neal Schon (who got his start in Santana) took part in a media conference call this spring to discuss his history, the tour and the future of the band.
Q. Was there a sense back in the day that the San Francisco music scene, which included the Steve Miller Band and Tower of Power, was something special?
A. You know, 45 years ago I joined Santana, and at that time I hadn’t really traveled. I knew the San Francisco scene was happening. It was popping. I thought it was just that’s the way it is everywhere. And soon after we started traveling, there were music scenes everywhere, but San Francisco still remains to be one of those. I think it’s flourishing again. There’s definitely a demand in San Francisco for any type of great music.
Q. How did the tour with the Steve Miller Band come about?
A. We’ve been doing this for years, and we’ve sort of like worn out all the options of different people to play with. There are a few that I wish to [tour] with, but it hasn’t happened. And Steve Miller definitely was one of them. Tower of Power and myself go way back. I used to jam with those guys all the time before I joined Santana, and after I joined Santana in 1970. So it’s like a full circle in a sense. It’ll be good to reunite with everyone. Probably [we’ll] end up jammin’ a bit with everyone.
Q. Considering your career has spanned so many decades, how in your opinion has the music industry changed?
A. It’s just the whole music industry has sort of faded except for live performances. There’s no more music stores. I sort of miss being able to walk into a music store and look at albums and CDs and see who’s on it and what’s going on. Everything is so digital. It’s just the way of the world right now, but I think the one thing that remains the same is live performances. So that’s why we’re still here doing this. It’s like one thing that can’t be hacked and one thing that you absolutely have to show up live to be able to do. So I still love it. I love performing.
Q. Earlier this year we watched the drama associated with the Rock Hall’s induction of Kiss. How would the members of Journey handle that situation if that call ever came? And would Pineda be included in the festivities?
A. Obviously, the original band would have to be there, but I think that this band that we’ve been working with for so long would have to be there. That’s the right thing to do if we ever are in. I mean, it’s like I’ve just sort of stuck it out of my head; it’s not a big deal to me. It’s pretty much politics, and that’s just the way it goes. I mean, Steve Miller certainly has a lot of classic hits, huge hits, and for him not to be in there, they should be ashamed of themselves.
Q. Finally, recent rumors were floated about Perry rejoining the band. What’s the future look like for Journey and Pineda?
A. As far as Arnel goes, he’s just a completely awesome human being and singer, amazingly talented. We want to reassure fans that no, Arnel is not going anywhere. He’s still right here with us.