Journey Makes Epic Return To Atlantic City
Last night was my first concert since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. I also had the opportunity to meet both Jonathan Cain and his wife Paula before the show, which was delightful. I interviewed Jon last month about his new music, Journey’s upcoming album, and more. Having the chance to enjoy an epic night of live music and spend time with Jon and Paula beforehand was made possible by the man himself. So, I’d like to express a heartfelt thank you to Jon Cain for his hospitality. Read on for my thoughts about the show, videos, photos, and more.
I got to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City early, and good thing I did because the meet and greet with Jon was scheduled for 10 minutes after I picked up my ticket and pass from the box office! This is one of the many reasons I always get to concerts early. It’s always better to have time to spare than no time at all.
Jonathan Cain has always been one of my favorite members of Journey — along with Neal Schon, of course. He’s a kind, creative, and generous human being who continues to inspire me. I’m so grateful that I’ve had the chance to interview him numerous times, tour his studio in Nashville, and more. Simply put, Jon is the best!
When Jon and Paula came into the meet and greet area, we shook hands and I said to Jon, “I see you guys are performing tomorrow in New York City at the same Central Park show as Barry Manilow. Are you going to say ‘Hi’ to Barry while you’re there?” Jon said, “He’s going to be there?!” I said, “Yeah!” I brought this up because Jon once told me that he almost produced Barry Manilow’s eponymous 1989 album. Jon said to me, “Is that story in my book?” I replied, “I don’t think so. You told me it in an interview.” He said, “I should’ve included that one. The editors cut it down, so it might have been in the first draft.” At this point, Jon told everyone in the room about his experience almost producing for Barry and how he chose to quit and leave because he got fed up being the middleman who had to deal with Barry and Clive Davis continually arguing. It was quite a story and an amazing what-if scenario. I told Jon, “I’d still love to see you produce a Barry Manilow album!”
I also spoke with Jon about his worship music and accompanying his wife during her sermons on piano, to which Jon replied, “When she preaches, I play.” I said, “That’s a quote right there! What a great line.” In all seriousness, I’m very happy for Jon and Paula. They seem like a wonderful couple, and I’m glad I had the chance to introduce myself to her and chat for a bit. She was sweet, kind, and I wished Paula and Jon nothing but the best.
Journey kicked off the show with “Separate Ways,” which got the crowd up on their feet in no time. I should note that at least 50% of the people in the crowd were wearing masks, even those who were vaccinated. If you’re wondering how I could possibly know this, it’s because some of them voluntarily told me. So, it’s comforting to see that people are finding a balance between having fun and being responsible.
After a beautiful piano solo by Jon Cain, the band went into “Who’s Crying Now,” which Journey played to perfection. From Jon’s melodic piano playing to Neal’s soaring guitar, it was a feast for the ears.
One shocking moment for me was seeing that Deen Castronovo is back in the band. I love Deen, and I’m so happy that he’s back home. He’s a perfect fit for Journey, and having dueling drummers in Deen and Narada Michael Walden makes for a spectacular visual and sound. Also, Journey’s secondary keyboard player, whose name escapes me, was also excellent. He had a lead vocal opportunity on “Suzanne,” one of my favorite underrated Journey songs.
Deen tackled lead vocals on two songs: “Still They Ride” and “Mother, Father.” As always, he did so masterfully. He contributes so much to the band that I hope he stays for good this time. Marco Mendoza on bass is also badass. I’m telling you, this is one of the best lineups in the history of Journey. Top talent across the board.
In addition to the classics, Journey also played their new single, “The Way We Used To Be,” from their forthcoming studio album. It’s got a fun groove, and I’m always happy when artists I love create new music to enjoy.
As expected, Journey closed out the concert with the band’s most popular song: “Don’t Stop Believin’.” They did so to the roaring approval of their cheering faithful. This truly was a fantastic evening of live music that completely exceeded my expectations in every way, and I’m grateful to Jonathan Cain for making it happen.