Any band that has survived career ups and downs, fickle music trends, and its own personal obstacles to achieve a certain degree of rock 'n' roll tenure has done so by making no distinctions between the past and present.
Journey guitarist Neal Schon considers it all, well, one big journey: a journey where the band has become legendary after 30 years.
"I never really thought about it," he says from a Motor City tour stop. "About 13 years ago, I thought it had run its course. But recently, before we left on this tour, we were inducted into the rock Walk Of Fame in San Francisco. There's only a handful of people in there, like Santana, John Lee Hooker, Bill Graham, Jefferson Airplane, Metallica." It was then that Journey's stature really sank in for Schon.
"When they said '30th anniversary,' I'm like 'Sonofabitch, we've been doing this for 30 years.'"
Most rock fans know Journey for its catchy, arena-sized rock with loud guitar pyrotechnics and melodies sung with soaring, multiple-octave vocals. But when it was founded in 1973 by former Santana members Schon and Gregg Rolie, the band wasn't intended to be the monster pop-rock outfit it became.
"When Journey first came together, it was more of a fusion, improvisation-type band," Schon says. "We were known in San Francisco as The Grateful Dead on steroids. We were pretty much a jam band."
Journey released 18 albums and sold 50,000,000 copies before the band started to splinter. Vocalist Steve Perry wanted time off. Schon was submerging himself in multiple solo projects and collaborations with artists like Paul Rogers. After a couple of failed restarts with Perry, Schon finally decided it was time to move on. Perry, a signature member of the group, was replaced.
With new vocalist Steve Augeri, Journey has released Red 13, an album of epic, jammed-out rock more akin to the band's early days than those of the mega-hits. It may not sound exactly like the Journey radio fans remember. But it's legit, and it rocks. Schon waxes philosophical.
"Some people are never going to accept change, but such is life," he says. "That's something that I think is great about the name of the band. It means that it's moving."
Schon exudes the confidence that has maintained Journey's three-decade career.
"We're doing the same thing we've always done," he states simply. "We're playing our music, having fun, and the fans are coming to see it."
Journey, REO Speedwagon, and Styx will play on Tuesday, July 8, at the Blue Cross Arena, One War Memorial Square, at 7 p.m. Tix: $46.50-$56.50. 232-1900.
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