Neal Schon’s Journey Through Time 

Saturday Night, February 23rd at The Fox Theater in Oakland, a capacity crowd of Journey fans from their early days as a Progressive Rock Jam Band, through the Steve Perry and post Perry incarnations, enjoyed a richly textured set of songs encompassing the 45 year history of the band, as the accompanying set list testifies.

Schon’s group includes his former Journey and Santana bandmate Gregg Rolie on Hammond B3 Organ and vocals, former Journey drummer Deen Castronovo, who also doubled on the Steve Perry lead vocals, bassist Marco Mendoza who also handled background vocals and Chris Collins on Guitar and Keys. Having played Friday night at Jackson Rancheria, this was only the 2nd show with this line-up. On February 9th 2018, the core of Schon, Castronovo and Rolie played at North Bay Fire Victims Benefit at The Independent in San Francisco, primarily focusing on songs from Journey’s first three prog-oriented albums. The band headed to Phoenix for a show at The Van Buren on March 1 before concluding at The Orpheum in Los Angeles on March 2.

The set started with two early Journey songs with Gregg Rolie strongly finding his voice, which would end the show with an encore of “Black Magic Woman”, the Santana hit from Abraxas. Occasionally during the show, he would rise up from his keyboard and encourage the audience in singing along. The visual effect of Deen Castronovo handling Steve Perry’s lead vocals on a headset from behind his drum kit was at first disorienting, but through the set I found myself amazed at his powerful timekeeping and singing those soaring vocal parts simultaneously. Without missing a beat. Without running out of breath. It was a revelation. Only during a couple of acoustic numbers did he come to center stage with Neal Schon. Neal was right in telling the audience toward the end of the set that there isn’t a drummer in the world who could have equalled the strenuous performance.

I’ve always like Gregg Rolie’s voice, and this show did not change that opinion. Gregg and Neal Schon re-discovered their musical partnership working on the Santana IV album (as Santana III was the last one with both of them in Carlos’ band) and the original Santana shows in 2016. The seed of the idea was planted. This gave Neal a chance to step back into that part of Journey’s history. It was great to have him stretch out on the Journey songs, melting the time since Gregg’s departure. It was fun. On stage and in the crowd. I think next weekend’s shows won’t be the last for this line-up.