Journey, Loverboy and Pat Benatar working for the weekend
Less than a decade ago, Journey was lumped in with many other rock bands from the 1970s and '80s that limped along, drawing half-empty arenas of mullet-wearing fans and seemingly little cultural relevance.
"It was kind of quiet," said keyboard player Jonathan Cain in a phone interview about the band's leaner years.
But times have changed. In 2011, the band grossed more than $39 million more than Britney Spears, Neil Diamond and Jason Aldean with 688,871 people buying tickets to its shows. The band even saw 17 shows of its tour sell out.
Three popular-culture events propelled Journey back into the upper echelon of touring acts, according to Cain.
In 2007, the controversial, much-talked-about final scene of the series finale of "The Sopranos" was set to the band's signature song, "Don't Stop Believin'," with the scene cutting to black on the phrase "Don't stop."
Then came the success of the rock jukebox musical "Rock of Ages," which also featured that song closing the show. The musical was developed in Los Angeles in 2005 and 2006 and opened off-Broadway in 2008 (featuring actor and Utah native Will Swenson), before transferring to Broadway in 2009. (The national tour played Salt Lake City's Kingsbury Hall in February.)
That was followed in 2009 by the pilot of the TV series "Glee," which showcased the New Directions' rendition of "Don't Stop Believin'." The cast's recording became a smash, eventually going platinum and exposing the band to a younger generation with plenty of disposable allowance and an iTunes account. "Somebody on 'Glee' probably saw 'Rock of Ages,' " Cain said.
In 2009, "Don't Stop Believin' " became the top-selling song in iTunes history, and it's featured at nearly every wedding reception. (At one recent wedding I attended, it was played twice.)
With "The Sopranos," former lead singer and song co-writer Steve Perry refused to let the song be licensed until three days before the episode aired. As a fan of "The Sopranos," Perry didn't want the song to be associated with Tony Soprano's presumed death, but relented after speaking with the show's creator. The rest of the band, Cain said, knew that once the song was included in the finale, the band would be catapulted back into the cultural spotlight.
"We worked really hard to get our name back out there" once the song shot up the charts once again, Cain said.
New lead singer Arnel Pineda who was discovered in 2007 when the band watched a YouTube video of him performing with a Journey tribute band in his native Philippines has been able to rejuvenate the band. "It's a credit to Arnel," Cain said. "He channeled the Journey experience."
Adding to the Journey experience at tonight's concert will be Loverboy and Pat Benatar with Neil Giraldo opening the show.
Giraldo is Benatar's husband and a guitar player in her band. Giraldo, who has played with Benatar for more than three decades, is credited with co-writing much of her material. To some of her fans, however, he's just the answer to a trivia question: Benatar's "You Better Run" video was the second ever aired on MTV and featured Giraldo on guitar, making him the first axman to be seen on MTV. (The Buggles, who had no guitar player, had the first video to be aired.)
In a phone interview, Giraldo said he began playing piano first, but the guitar became his primary instrument when his uncle brought him The Yardbirds' single "Shapes of Things," featuring Jeff Beck. "[My uncle] told me to play like those guys," Giraldo said. And, eventually he did, on Benatar classics such as "Love Is a Battlefield," "We Belong" and "Invincible."
Giraldo is finishing up a memoir about his life in music, and it will surely include another bit of Giraldo trivia: He played guitar on Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl."
As for Loverboy, the Canadian rock band will release a new album, "Rock 'n' Roll Revival," on Aug. 14, with nine re-recordings of Loverboy songs including "Working for the Weekend," "Turn Me Loose" and "Lovin' Every Minute of It" with three new songs.
Loverboy is one of the few bands from the 1970s that contain nearly all of their original members. (That's excluding bassist Scott Smith, who died at sea in 2000.) "It's camaraderie," said singer Mike Reno in a phone interview. "We took our time putting the band together, making sure we liked hanging out together, as well as being good musicians."
Loverboy toured with Journey nearly 30 years ago, and Reno said the appeal of this tour is easy to pinpoint. "People are starved for good ol' rock 'n' roll," he said. "When you come to this show, imagine all of the hits you're going to hear."
Through the years, one thing hasn't changed for Reno. He still suffers from near-debilitating stage fright about an hour before showtime. "The hour before the show is the worst time of day," he said. "I sweat before I hit the stage I get sick."
His routine to get through that tough hour is always the same. "I iron everything," he said. "It takes my mind off the show."
Some things change. Some things stay the same. But you can almost bet that "Don't Stop Believin' " will close the night.
Journey with Loverboy, Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo
When • Friday, Aug. 3, at 7 p.m.
Where • Usana Amphitheatre, 5150 S. 6055 West, West Valley City
Tickets • $44 to $135 at SmithsTix Excerpt from "Don't Stop Believin'":
Just a small town girl
Livin' in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin' anywhere
Just a city boy
Born and raised in south Detroit
He took the midnight train goin' anywhere
A singer in a smoky room
A smell of wine and cheap perfume
For a smile they can share the night
It goes on and on and on and on