Journey & Toto Totally Rock North Charleston On 'Freedom Tour'

Iconic Bands Blow the Roof Off the Coliseum,  Journey Celebrating 50th Anniversary 

Jeff Walker,  Entertainment Writer

While they reached varying degrees of worldwide popularity, combined Journey and Toto helped lay the foundation of pop music in the late 1970's and 80's. Both bands rolled into the low country Tuesday (April 23) in support of Journey's 'Freedom Tour', celebrating their 50th anniversary in rock n' roll. aaaaaaaajourneytour1

A near sellout and overly appreciative crowd, comprised of mostly concert goers 55 and older, enjoyed a trip down memory lane as the two bands performed over three hours at the North Charleston Coliseum offering up 30 songs, with Journey afforded twice as many given the wealth of their music arsenal. Truth be told, while baby boomers were well represented Tuesday night, Generation X, Y, and Z were on hand because younger music fans appreciate great songs, and even greater musicians.

Toto with founding guitarist Steve Lukather and longtime lead vocalist Joe Williams in tow opened the show, taking diehard fans back to 1978 with 'Girl Goodbye', a lesser known track from the band's self-title debut album. They quickly rebounded with a more familiar number, following with 'Hold the Line' which spent six weeks inside the Top 10 during the fall of '78. Lukather said that the rumors he was less enthused by '99' were unfounded. The soft rock number he sang lead on went to #26 in early 1980, and remains in the band's concert lineup.

'Dying On My Feet' off 2006's 'Falling In Between' was less recognizable, but led into their Adult Contemporary chart topping single 'I'll Be Over You'. The hit track off 1986's 'Fahrenheit' album was the first time Williams took the reins as lead singer.

Lukather took time to introduce bandmates, many he's known since his teenage years. Although none were founding members of Toto, several come with musical resumes that include working with Stevie Wonder, spending 30 years in Huey Lewis and the News, and like Lukather recording with Michael Jackson. Lukather delighted in introducing Williams who fronted the band in the late 80's and again since 2010, telling the crowd they've heard his voice in one of the most popular animated movies of all time, as Williams sang a snippet of 'Hakuna Matata' from 'The Lion King'. aaaaaaaajourneytour5

Ironically the bands seventh album 'The Seventh One' (1988) allowed Toto to rock a little harder and showcase their musicianship on 'Home of the Brave', setting the tone for three radio friendly numbers including one cover. To the delight of Beatles fans Toto did justice to 'With a Little Help From My Friends' albeit in Joe Cocker style, before closing their 55 minute set on their two biggest across the board hits.

1982 was a banner year for Toto. The release of the multi-platinum and three time Grammy Award winning album 'Toto IV' solidified the bands place in rock n' roll. With concert goers on their feet, swaying back and forth, Toto said goodbye with extended versions of 'Rosanna' and 'Africa'. The songs reached No#2 and No#1 respectively, and provided Toto with global acclaim.

With fans primed for an evening of soft rock, hard rock, and straight up pop ballads, Journey took the stage 20 minutes later. With founding guitarist Neal Schon and keyboard player & rhythm guitarist Jonathan Cain (1980) still piloting the band's legacy, Journey continues to be one of the most durable bands to emerge during the heyday of arena rock, easily supplying classic rock with a host of non-stop hits.

Running full throttle through 21 songs, with over a dozen still played on radio formats worldwide on a daily basis, the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame band took concert goers on the musical 'journey' to yesteryear. 'Only the Young' which has its own inspirational history established the mood for Journey's two hour performance and reminded fans rock n' roll drinks from the fountain of youth.

Although never released as a single, 'Stone in Love' was the first album to feature Cain on keyboards. The track off 'Escape' (1982) has become a mainstay on rock radio formats as well as a fan favorite, and it undoubtedly showcases Arnel Pineda's vocals, ranging from tenor to high tenor. Using his voice to front Journey since 2008, Pineda has proven he can continue to raise the bar originally etched in stone by the legendary Steve Perry.

The band stayed with 'Escape' with veteran drummer Deen Castronovo taking the lead on 'Keep On Runnin' followed by the a track that blew the roof off the coliseum and got thousands of concert goers out of their seats. 'Don't Stop Believin' is arguably Journey's most successful song and has invaded pop culture time and time again. While many could suggest the sing-along number might be an encore song, with so many hits in their songbook, the massive up-tempo and melodic hit is welcome anytime during a Journey show.

A triple threat hit parade ensued with another three easily recognizable songs. 'Lights', 'Send Her My Love', and 'Who's Crying Now' kept fans on their feet with everyone in arena singing choruses in unison. Nearing the midway mark Cain and Castronovo shared vocals on 'Just the Same Way' a rare track from 1979's 'Evolution' album. Perhaps more familiar to diehard Journey followers, the song allows for all the musical instruments to shine.

Celebrating their most recent album 'Freedom', released in 2022 and the title to their tour, the band proved they still can rock hard with 'Let It Rain'. They revisited 'Evolution' sending up a bluesy pop rock rendition of 'Lovin', Touchin' Squeezin'. Their first ever Top 40 hit electrified the crowd as 'Na na na na na na, Na na na na nas' reverberated throughout the North Charleston Coliseum.

Cain who's been in Journey for 44 years enjoyed a solo spotlight, delivering a five minute piano solo that was more a tribute to orchestral music. It was a nice lead in to 'Open Arms' and 'Faithfully' two of Journey's most played power ballads. Cain, a professed Christian said he wrote the latter while on a tour bus in 1981 as a salute to loved ones who remain behind, sending the evening's offering out to all those who serve in the military, which received thunderous applause.

Keyboard player and backing vocalist Jason Derlatka took the limelight on the power-packed 'Girl Can't Help It', a familiar number that charted inside the Top 10 on the Mainstream Rock Chart. A guitar solo by Schon demonstrated his mastery of the six string. 70 years young, Schon cut his teeth joining Santana when he was just 17, and 53 years later he's proven he's one of guitar gods of rock n' roll. aaaaaaaajourneytour4

Schon's eight minute jam led into the final stretch beginning with his segue way into a hardcore favorite. 'Wheel In the Sky' from 1977 helped put Journey on the map as the band transitioned from jazz fusion to a more edgier pop and hard rock style. The single off their fourth album 'Infinity' was the first to chart on Billboard's Top 100, reaching #57. The extended version allowed Pineda to circle the coliseum extending high fives and handshakes to adoring fans.

Although 'Wheel' didn't crack the coveted Top 40, the final three songs did allowing even casual Journey fans an opportunity to join the band on familiar choruses as the show was coming to a close. 'Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)' and 'Be Good to Yourself' both cracked the Top 10, with the closing number 'Any Way You Want It' (Top 30) confirming Journey are a progressive hard rock band that produce haunting melodies, that even casual fans can't erase from the memory banks.

Journey arose during the late 1970's as one of industry's most predominant arena/stadium rock bands, much to the credit of Neal Schon’s remarkable guitar and the soaring voice of Steve Perry, with Arnel Pineda worthy of carrying Perry's vocal baton. That lineage (past & present) along with the songwriting skills of Schon, Perry, and Cain have cemented the bands longevity for decades to come.

While a few veteran acts still thrive on pyrotechnics, lasers, fog machines, and other theatrics to provide additional entertainment, smarter bands with rich musical catalogs let the songs stand on their own. With three large screen surrounding the stage including one as a backdrop, both bands let visual imagery enhance their performances, which was exceptionally moving on 'Faithfully'.

The journey (pun intended) for Journey continues in 2024 as they continue an abbreviated tour with Toto before joining fellow rockers Def Leppard, Heart, Cheap Trick, and the Steve Miller Band on select dates in America and in Europe later this year. Without question, Journey rocks, so I recommend catching them anywhere near your hometown. For more tour dates visit Toto head overseas and tour in South America for most of 2024.