Culture / Entertainment

Journey and “New” Lead Singer Arnel Pineda Prove They’re as Good as Ever at Houston Rodeo — Don’t You Dare Stop Believing

When Concert Tees and Cowboy Boots Mix in Perfect Harmony

BY // 03.11.22

If there was ever an anthem appropriate for the return of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” has to be it. Especially for the crowd of 72,000 who mixed Journey concert tees with cowboy boots and enthusiastically sang along to every nostalgia-fueled line on this Thursday night.

The songs made famous by Steve Perry, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain in the 1970s and 1980s still carry the same energy and emotion with lead singer Arnel Pineda, who joined the band in 2007. Add drummer Deen Castronovo back in the mix — and this Houston Rodeo show was pop-rock nirvana.

Schon opened the concert with a Jimi Hendrix-inspired “Star Spangled Banner,” leaving no question that the 68-year-old can still shred. His 2022 guitar chops are just as dynamic as they were 30-plus years ago.

The band rolled into “Stone In Love” and set the NRG Stadium crowd on fire with “Don’t Stop Believin,” adding “Escape” to the 12 song mix.

Throughout the set, Schon and Cain served as an oral anthologists, giving context to the songs “Lights” and “Faithfully.”

“We’re going to play a little tune from 1978 about our city by the bay. Get out your phones and light this up like a big Christmas tree,” Schon instructed. A chorus of lights quickly filled NRG. Before “Faithfully,” Cain dedicated the song to the “Guys and gals who live the rodeo life and their families.”

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Pineda channels Steve Perry’s gravel and harmonies, but after 15 years with the band, he’s made the lead singer role his own dancing, jumping and singing throughout the concert. At the end of show, Cain made sure to remind the crowd Pineda was indeed the lead singer, calling him the “Thrilla from Manilla.” 

The Philippines-born singer also gets extra style points for donning a brown jacket and matching pants adorned with sequin clusters and colorful high-top kicks.

Journey embraced RodeoHouston’s grand stage. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

The mixed generational crowd got many of the favorites they wanted — including “Wheel in the Sky,” “Separate Ways” and “Anyway You Want It” — but there were some like “Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin’ ” and “Open Arms,” that didn’t make the Houston Rodeo cut. Regardless, this was classic Journey, high energy and full of memories. And it doesn’t seem like this will be the last Houston stop for the band.

“We’ll be back Houston. We’ll be back,” Pineda promised the cheering crowd before hopping off stage.

Let’s hope it’s soon, because there are fewer songs that illicit more joy than the first few notes of “Don’t Stop Believin.” In that moment, everyone truly is a small-town girl living in a lonely world. That’s the magic of one of rock and roll’s most iconic songs.

And a band that still has it.

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