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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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Journey performed at the USANA Amphitheatre Thursday.
Review: Cinderella tale of Journey's Filipino lead singer is fascinating

Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey (Monday, 9 p.m., PBS/Ch. 7) tells a story that would be impossible to believe if it wasn't true.

It's the story of Arnel Pineda, a down-on-his luck Filipino singer who battled addiction, who nearly lost his family, who was about to quit the business. And then Neal Schon, the guitarist for the band Journey, saw Pineda on YouTube and found a new lead singer for the band.

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It's a little more complicated than that, but not a lot more. Which is pretty unbelievable.

In 2007, the band was looking for a lead singer. They'd had a couple of others after Steve Perry left, but neither worked out in the long term.

So Schon went on the Internet and started a search. Really.

"I'd been looking non-stop,

honestly, for two days, like, day and night, and I'd just about given up," said Schon. He finally came across YouTube videos of Pineda and quickly decided, "This guy's the real deal.

I listened to him do everything in the genre from Led Zeppelin to Journey and

everything in between. The Police, Aerosmith -

which is not an easy voice to do either, Steven

Tyler. Like I said, Robert Plant. And then a zillion other artists. And I thought I've

never heard anybody that could really be such a

chameleon and do it so authentically. And I was just taken aback by his talent.

"The more videos I watched of Arnel -- he had about

40 of them up - the more I was just astounded."

But he had to find a way to get in contact with Pineda. And then the tough part was getting Pineda to believe this was for real.

Pineda's first reaction, not surprisingly, was, "This guy, he's nuts. He's crazy. He's not real. This is a hoax. They're just trying to scam me for money."

Schon and Pineda emailed. They talked on the phone. But Pineda still wasn't altogether convinced and insisted on a face-to-face meeting over the Internet.

"I didn't even know how to use Skype," Schon said. "I was very not into the Internet."

"And then I told my wife, 'This guy's crazy,'" Pineda said. "But then, he was really pretty persistent because ..."

"Crazy is good sometimes," Schon interjected.

It wasn't as easy as that. It wasn't easy to go from performing for a couple dozen people in a Manila bar to thousands at a Journey concert. And English was not Pineda's primary language.

Plus, the band's fans didn't all welcome Pineda with open arms.

"Journey fans are avid Journey fans, and they love Steve Perry still," said filmmaker Romana Diaz. "So there was a lot of that. But, on the other hand, there was a lot of racism because Journey is an all-American rock band. Right? And here's this Asian guy fronting for Journey - unheard of. It was just a shock. And, yeah, a lot of that was racism. I mean, certainly, on the Internet, there was a lot of that.

"He won them over."

There's a lot more to this story. Which makes this film fascinating.

If you sit down and start watching, you may not be able to stop.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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